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Ottawa stuck in blame game between LRT builder and train provider, OC Transpo boss says

Outstanding issues with Ottawa's LRT are expected to last past August, the city's transit commission heard Wednesday.
Outstanding issues with Ottawa's LRT are expected to last past August, the city's transit commission heard Wednesday. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

The head of Ottawa’s transit agency says he’s “not confident” the builder behind the city’s light-rail transit system will have solved all of the outstanding issues with the Confederation Line LRT by the end of August.

John Manconi and his team gave an update on Ottawa’s transit recovery plans Wednesday morning.

Among the good news, Ottawa’s transit commission heard, is that all trains on the line have received software updates to reduce door issues — a common source of delays and shutdowns on the track since it opened last September.

An upcoming period of downtime from June 21 to 24 will see Rideau Transit Group (RTG) provide further updates to the train control software and conduct additional maintenance on the rails and the overhead catenary system.

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Troy Charter, the city’s director of transit operations, said Wednesday there might be a need for additional shutdowns on the Confederation Line this summer to fix outstanding issues with Ottawa’s troubled LRT system.

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Manconi had said previously that he was holding RTG to a deadline of August 31 to deliver a fully operational light-rail line.

On Wednesday, he said he was “not confident” that would be possible, as RTG had not committed to that date — or any other — to complete the full suite of needed repairs and maintenance work.

“I’m not happy right now,” he said.

Manconi said Ottawa is caught in the middle of a disagreement between RTG and Alstom, the manufacturer of the trains on the Confederation Line.

He said RTG is confident in the LRT system’s infrastructure and Alstom is confident in its trains, and neither is taking responsibility for the outstanding issues.

The ongoing service failures mean RTG has not been paid since last year, Manconi said, though the company is likely entitled to some payments for a few weeks of uninterrupted service in 2020.

Manconi said he was confused as to why the withheld payments are not doing more to motivate RTG to fix the issues and commit to a firm date of delivery.

Manconi also said he couldn’t disclose his plan to ensure Alstom and RTG get the system into working order, as those details are being kept for an upcoming confidential update to council.

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He did say he would make sure the system will be in full operation before the winter months, which last year saw routine disruption on the newly inaugurated LRT line.

“I’m not putting this organization, and I’m not putting yourselves, or our customers, through another winter of hell,” he said.

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