Ottawa

Ottawa mayor sees no need for emergency meeting to address LRT, bus safety

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says there is no reason to hold an emergency meeting of the city's transit commission, which was requested by some city councillors due to concerns about the safety of trains and buses at OC Transpo.

Next transit meeting set for Sept 20, but some councillors want to address safety concerns earlier

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says councillors can receive information through direct questions to OC Transpo, and the agency's staff needs to focus on the issues that caused last week's light rail and bus problems. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says there is no reason to hold an emergency meeting of the city's transit commission, which was requested by some city councillors due to concerns about the safety of trains and buses at OC Transpo.

"My number one objective is to ensure that our staff are working 100 per cent of the time on fixing any core problems," said Watson. "They've done that and we're going to move forward and we have a transit commission meeting next month."

Watson said Tuesday he supports the chair of the transit commission, Coun. Allan Hubley, who denied a request by two city councillors to bump up the committee's next meeting, which is currently scheduled more than a month from now on Sept. 20.

The request for an expedited meeting comes after the Aug. 8 derailment of a LRT vehicle, which was not carrying any passengers, that led to a week-long shutdown of the city's Confederation Line.

Investigators discovered the train car's axle bearing assembly was to blame for the derailment. A subsequent inspection of OC Transpo's entire fleet of 39 train cars found problems in eight other cars.

The agency also pulled 19 double-decker buses out of service last week after a bus of the same model ended up in a ditch.

The incidents have prompted at least three city councillors to publicly request an expedited meeting of the transit commission. Hubley wrote back Monday afternoon to decline.

"Be assured that I share your concerns, however, (John) Manconi and his team at OC Transpo have responded very professionally to both of these incidents," wrote Hubley. 

"Our staff's attention is currently directed to the inspection of vehicles and restoring full service, and I want Mr. Manconi and his team's undivided attention on that mission, to the benefit of OC Transpo riders," he added.

The mayor argued councillors can send written questions to OC Transpo management if they seek immediate answers, and will receive a reply in a memo.

"The memos are actually quite thorough, four or five pages of information that's specific to the issues that we have raised as members of council, as well as members of the public," said Watson.

The axle of an LRT train on Ottawa's Confederation Line came dislodged from the rail on Aug. 8, prompting an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

Memos are not enough, says councillor

One of the councillors requesting an emergency meeting, Catherine McKenney, said memos won't cut it given the gravity of the situation.

"There are too many things happening and we can't just count on a memo each day to keep residents, council and commission [informed], who are ultimately responsible to residents and to our customers," they said. 

"We need to get those questions answered in a public forum."

After initially being denied an emergency meeting, McKenney posted on their Twitter feed they are petitioning members of the commission to secure a majority of votes and reverse Hubley's decision.

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