Make-or-break testing to begin on Confederation Line

Ottawa's Confederation Line is about to undergo a series of tests that could make or break its Nov. 2 deadline, and transportation manager John Manconi told city councillors he won't be confident about the new LRT system's launch until those tests are passed.

Software behind automated system from same contractor responsible for major delays in Edmonton

The city hopes to get the Confederation Line rolling in November, once extensive testing is complete. (City of Ottawa)

Ottawa's Confederation Line is about to undergo a series of tests that could make or break its Nov. 2 deadline, and transportation manager John Manconi told city councillors he won't be confident about the new LRT system's launch until those tests are passed.

Manconi told the city's finance and economic development committee Tuesday he's not concerned about meeting construction deadlines, but about whether the trains will run properly on the automated system.

"They have to stop in the exact same spot thousands of times a day," Manconi said.

The automated system allows the trains to essentially drive themselves, with an operator in the cab in case of emergencies.

Until now the contractor building the line, Rideau Transit Group (RTG), has only been able to perform limited testing on the software that tells the trains when to stop.

That's because the tracks haven't all been laid.
The concrete lining of the LRT tunnel under Ottawa's downtown was recently completed, and work continues to finish laying the track. (City of Ottawa)

Manconi told councillors he'll stop worrying when RTG proves the signalling system works.

Major delays in Edmonton

Ottawa's software is being provided by Thales Canada, the same company that designed the much-maligned automated system for Edmonton's 5-kilometre Metro LRT line.

In that city, the line is now four years behind schedule because the signalling software still doesn't function as advertised.

Ottawa's line is less complex than Edmonton's since it doesn't cross any roads or existing rail lines.

The city is keeping a keen eye on three key milestones that will prove how well the system works, Manconi said.
Transportation manager John Manconi said he'll feel more confident once Rideau Transit Group is able to prove the signalling software works. (CBC)

First, a train needs to pass through the underground tunnel. The track is completed on the westbound side of the tunnel, but only about half has been laid on the eastbound side.

Next, Manconi wants to see three trains run in automated mode at the same time. Eventually all 34 trains will operate on the software.

Finally RTG will need to show the line works from one end to the other. The contractor hopes to finish laying the track this spring so that testing can begin.

The city hopes to put as many kilometres on the trains as possible before the line opens to the public.

If all goes well, the city plans to allow passengers aboard some time in November 2018.