It hasn’t been a great month for Ottawa mayor Jim Watson. First he announced he wasn’t running again, stating that he had made the decision that this would be his last term on election night 2018. Then he got word that the province was launching a judicial probe into the troubled Ottawa LRT. And last week he caught COVID, although he says he is not showing symptoms.
As he enters the final months of his term, Watson’s council is taking steps to strip a 20-year maintenance contact from the consortium that built the trouble-plagued Light Rail system. The city has issued a notice of default to the Rideau Transit Group (RTG) — the consortium comprising SNC-Lavalin, ACS Infrastructure and Ellis Don — after two train derailments that interrupted service for weeks The notice of default claims RTG failed to live up to its contract.
Ottawa is now asking the court to confirm RTG is in default of the project agreement so that “the city can appropriately exercise its options under the project agreement, up to and including termination,” court documents say.
The value of the 30-year maintenance contract is $1 Billion approximately or $30 Million a year, which is very close to the amount Metrolinx estimated would be the cost to Hamilton for its LRT—a figure disputed by Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger who said the O&M cost would be more like $6-8 Million per year.
Now CBC Ottawa is saying that privately the head of Ottawa’s Transit service was worried that there were serious deficiencies with the Ottawa LRT in the days before it was put into service. Emails obtained by CBC quote how concerned and discouraged Transit Chief John Manconi appeared about the readiness of the system. As well, the messages show the problems that appeared after the Confederation Line was publicly launched were fully known to the city before it accepted the system. Manconi has since retired.