Peter Lauch, head of the consortium that built and is now tasked with maintaining Ottawa’s light-rail transit (LRT) system, announced this week that he is stepping down as CEO of Rideau Transit Group (RTG) next month.
His departure comes amid an extended shutdown of the Confederation Line LRT for repairs and maintenance and renewed calls for RTG to appear in front of city councillors to answer questions about the line’s lagging performance.
Lauch’s last day as head of RTG will be July 10.
He was first named CEO of RTG in 2018 but was part of the senior project management team for five years before that. A few months after the line first launched in November 2019, he also became CEO of Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM), the consortium’s new title after achieving “revenue service availability.”
A press release from RTG released Monday evening thanks Lauch for his “tireless dedication to the project and his forthright transparency.”
The consortium’s board of directors and the principal partners said they “reluctantly accepted Mr. Lauch’s decision.”
According to Lauch, it had always been his plan to step down after the consortium was reorganized into RTM.
“When I accepted the challenge to head up RTG, my primary objective was to oversee the transition into revenue service,” he said in a statement.
The City of Ottawa and OC Transpo have been informed of Lauch’s impending departure.
A transition plan will be announced in the coming days.
Whoever ends up taking on the mantle of leadership at RTM will likely be the target of immense scrutiny from city staff and councillors.
OC Transpo head John Manconi told last week’s transit commission meeting that he was “not confident” RTM would be able to deliver a fully operable LRT system by the end of August.
This comes despite Ottawa’s transit agency giving RTM the all-clear to shut down service on the line for days at a time this summer amid lower ridership volumes related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The current shutdown was initially expected to stretch from June 21 to 24, but RTM put in a last-minute request to extend the closure until the end of the week.
Manconi said the city is stuck in a blame game between RTM and Alstom, the manufacturer of the trains used on the Confederation Line, on where the fault lies with the system’s recurring issues.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney called for RTM senior management to appear in a public forum this summer to answer outstanding questions on the LRT system.