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Ottawa LRT inches towards relaunch with hiring of independent safety expert

Workers wearing a hard hats from train manufacturer Alstom work among evidence markers laid on the tracks Monday, Sept. 20, 2021 after an OC Transpo O-Train derailed west of Tremblay LRT Station on Sunday in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The City of Ottawa has hired a replacement safety expert to sign off on repairs to its light-rail transit system.

The move is a step toward getting riders back on the LRT system, which is entering its third week of downtime following the latest derailment.

Steve Kanellakos, Ottawa’s city manager, said in a memo Monday morning that he has hired TRA Inc. to oversee Rideau Transit Group’s plan to return the Confederation Line LRT to service.

Read more: Ottawa’s troubled LRT trains are off the rails again. Advocates demand answers

The Philadelphia-based rail safety firm is the second company to be picked for the job. Kanellakos had originally hired consultancy STV, but cancelled that contract after a backlash because of that firm’s previous involvement with the Confederation Line.

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While the city manager maintained that STV was qualified, he said the perception of any conflict of interest was an obstacle to restoring public trust in the system.

TRA was selected after a review of qualified companies alongside Sam Berrada, Ottawa’s regulatory monitor and compliance officer.

Kanellakos had said previously that the number of firms with the requisite experience for the job is limited, but wrote in his memo Monday that TRA is an “industry leader in rail safety” that has worked with rail authorities across North America.

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The firm has never worked for the City of Ottawa, RTG, or any of the rail construction consortium member companies.

TRA’s contract began on Oct. 1 and the firm will be on-site Monday to start assessing the situation from the Sept. 19 incident, which saw a train derail and continue to travel through Tremblay Station with passengers on board until coming to a stop a few hundred metres later, damaging rail infrastructure along the way.

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The LRT will not resume service until TRA signs off on RTG’s safety plan.

Once TRA’s initial assessment is done, it will submit a timeline to city council for when its review is expected to be finished.

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