No guarantee LRT will be ready by November deadline

With less than four months to go until Ottawa's $2.1-billion LRT system is supposed to be turned over to the city, the general manager of OC Transpo can’t guarantee the massive project will be completed by Nov. 2.

Sinkhole, complex communications system set project back

An Ottawa light rail train performs a test run between Tremblay and uOttawa stations in April 2018. (CBC)

With less than four months to go until Ottawa's $2.1-billion LRT system is supposed to be turned over to the city, the general manager of OC Transpo can't guarantee the massive project will be completed by Nov. 2.

"It's day-by-day, week-by-week," John Manconi said Tuesday morning, following his monthly update on the LRT to the city's finance and economic development committee.

"As we progress through the summer months we'll have a better idea."

Manconi said he's growing more comfortable by the day that Rideau Transit Group (RTG) — the consortium building the 12.5-kilometre Confederation Line — will make its target date. But he wasn't promising anything.

"I know everyone would like me to say it's guaranteed we're going to hit Nov. 2, I can't do that," Manconi told reporters. "I remind everybody on the city side and RTG knows that safety trumps everything."

Manconi also couldn't say exactly when he'll be in a position to tell council whether the Nov. 2 handover date will be met.

Concern over Rideau Station, communications

Two factors are throwing the deadline into question, Manconi said: the completion of the underground Rideau station, delayed by a sinkhole two years ago and where RTG is now working 24 hours a day; and the completion and testing of a complicated network of electronic systems that need to be able to talk to each other in order for the LRT to operate properly and safely.

As well, Manconi said inspectors need to sign off on "thousands" of documents before the city takes over the light-rail system.

Coun. Diane Deans noted Tuesday "there's an awful lot that has to happen to make that go ahead, and it would not surprise me to see a delay."

'Hope springs eternal'

Deans said she understands how complicated the communications systems are to get right, pointing out that similar complications have caused delays in other municipalities.

"We are only 16 weeks from the handover ... hopes springs eternal, but I think [there's] a great potential for another delay," Deans said.

"When Mr. Manconi sits in front of you and he can't say with confidence that it's going to be ready," councillors need to prepare for possibility of another delay, Deans said.

RTG was originally supposed to hand over the LRT to the city on May 24, but the city announced in February it wouldn't make that deadline.

More updates to come

The city released a drone video of the LRT line, and hopes to shoot a new video after it takes possession of the Blair Station.

Manconi said one of the 34 Alstom trains is fully automated, and is being tested in driverless mode, although there is always an operator in the train.

There will be no monthly update to the committee in August as council is on a summer break, but Manconi said his department will put out a written memo.