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No completion date for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT amid quality and safety issues

Click to play video: 'Credibility crisis caused by Crosstown LRT delays'
Credibility crisis caused by Crosstown LRT delays
WATCH: Credibility crisis caused by Crosstown LRT delays – Apr 27, 2023

The Eglinton Crosstown LRT will remain closed until the province is confident that it’s “100 per cent safe,” Premier Doug Ford said as his government battles a private construction consortium over a definitive completion date.

On Thursday, the Ford government and provincial-transit agency Metrolinx, revealed that the much-maligned project has been plagued with safety and quality issues, causing a years-long delay and leaving taxpayers with more questions about accountability.

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster blamed the ongoing delays on Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS), a consortium of companies that was awarded a mega contract for construction, and said the agency is using all available levers in the contract to force the company to speed up construction.

Click to play video: 'LRT delay frustrates riders, businesses'
LRT delay frustrates riders, businesses

Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said that while she would “love to provide a date,” the province is now pressuring CTS to give transit riders a firm schedule.

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“We are working closely with Metrolinx to get CTS, who’s delivering the project, to provide a credible schedule so that we can let the people of Ontario know when we’ll be able to open the system,” Mulroney said at a news conference.

Even Premier Ford suggested he didn’t have a target end date.

“As soon as I get a schedule that we’re working on with the builders of the [LRT] I’ll be the first to come out there,” Ford said.

While CTS gave Metrolinx a projected completion date of the second half of 2023, Verster said that forecast has been repeatedly challenged by the transit agency.

Delays started at the beginning

Verster indicated the problems with CTS began soon after the $9.1-billion contract was awarded in 2015 — and with a projected completion date in 2021.

“At the launch of a project contracts, very often, are not as pressured on time because completion is years away and time is lost in the design process,” Verster said.

Verster said the initial design process by CTS was between nine and 18 months late and that loss of momentum was “never really recovered” as the project crawled along.

Metrolinx also suggested quality control issues with the construction have meant the opening date is falling further behind, including 260 quality issues with the project including track work issues identified in 2021 which are only being repaired in 2023.

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The delays in the construction, and lack of safety guarantees, also mean Metrolinx is unable to start training TTC staff to operate the line.

“Once the testing and commissioning is completed, then CTS engineers must certify the documentation that the work has been done to the specifications that Metrolinx has put forward and to the quality that is required,” Verster said.

“That is about 20 per cent complete at this stage.”

Who’s accountable for the delays

When asked about accountability for the project Minister Mulroney indicated that she is “fully responsible” for the opening date — but cautioned that she was unwilling to proceed with an unsafe transit system.

“As Minister of Transportation I am accountable and I am responsible for everything that happens within my ministry, including getting the system opened,” Mulroney told reporters.

“We have seen in Ottawa what happens when politicians push transit systems to open when they’re not ready,” Mulroney said. “We don’t want that to happen here.”

Verster said Metrolinx is now using “every lever” in the contract with CTS to force the consortium to deliver the project on time and indicated that the costs of rectifying quality issues will come at CTS’s expense.

“The cost of the delay of the project is at CTS’s expense,” Verster said. “We are withholding substantial payment against the completion of the project.”

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