Ottawa

LRT handover to happen 'sometime this month,' mayor now says

Mayor Jim Watson refused to say definitively Wednesday afternoon whether the $2.1-billion Confederation Line will be delivered to the city on Aug. 16, the fourth official deadline for the massive transit project that's already more than a year late.

Jim Watson refusing to confirm whether Aug. 16 deadline will be met

Mayor Jim Watson us refusing to say whether the Confederation Line handover will occur by Aug. 16, the fourth official deadline set for builder Rideau Transit Group. (CBC)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson refused to say definitively Wednesday afternoon whether the $2.1-billion Confederation Line will be delivered to the city on Aug. 16, the fourth official deadline for the massive transit project that's already more than a year late.

The 12.5-kilometre east-west light rail line is currently undergoing a trial run during which it's supposed to operate almost flawlessly for 12 consecutive days. City officials including the mayor have refused to say how the crucial testing phase, which officially began on July 29, is going.

I'm still very confident that we're going to have train service for passengers in the month of September of this year.- Mayor Jim Watson

But judging from Watson's comments to CBC Wednesday afternoon, it doesn't sound as if the handover is on track to happen this week.

"When the testing is complete and we're satisfied that we're prepared to accept the keys, then we'll make that announcement to the public, to the media and to members of council," Watson said just before launching a charity golf tournament at Stonebridge Golf Club.

"So I look forward to that date sometime this month, and I'm still very confident that we're going to have train service for passengers in the month of September of this year."

Mayor Jim Watson would not say definitively whether the Confederation Line will be delivered to the city on Aug. 16, the fourth official deadline for the project. 0:48

4th delay to cost RTG another $1M

Last month, Watson said the city expected to receive the keys for the light rail system by Aug. 16, but sources familiar with the project told CBC last week that's unlikely to happen.

The mayor said Wednesday if Rideau Transit Group (RTG) misses the Friday deadline, it will be penalized $1 million for the fourth time. The city plans to subtract $1 million for each of the missed deadlines — May 2018, November 2018, March 2019 and, it seems, August 2019 — from the $202 million it still owes RTG.

Workers try to get a derailed light rail train back on track during earlier testing in May. There have been further problems during the crucial 12-day trial run that began July 29, sources tell CBC. (City of Ottawa)

When RTG declares it's finished the 12-day simulation, an independent certifier will be asked to give it a stamp of approval before the city takes possession of the Confederation Line. Once that happens, the city will need several weeks to prepare to launch the LRT publicly.

Watson said he believes Ottawans will be riding the Confederation Line by September, despite the apparent delay.

"We've said all along our No. 1 priority is to make sure we accept a system that is going to be ready Day 1 because we don't want to have any surprises when the trains start to roll in September," Watson said.

Some hiccups

While city officials haven't been forthcoming about how the crucial 12-day trial run is going,  CBC learned there were some hiccups.

Sources said testing had to be suspended for a day or two, while smaller issues have been popping up on a daily basis. Last Thursday, for example, only 14 trains were launched during the morning rush hour test run instead of the required 15 because one train wasn't working properly.

On Tuesday afternoon, one train was "immobilized" to the point that, if the LRT were actually operating, shuttle buses would have been required to transport passengers.

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