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Honeymoon long over between city of Ottawa and LRT construction group

Honeymoon long over between city of Ottawa and LRT construction group

It was high fives all round when Ottawa opened its new LRT system in 2019 but since then the Ottawa LRT project has seen nothing but embarrassing delays and service breakdowns and now the city and the group that built the system are wrangling in court over who’s to blame.

The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that court documents allege the City of Ottawa “decided unilaterally” to launch the problem-plagued Confederation Line in September 2019 without consulting Rideau Transit Group, the consortium that built the LRT system because of political pressure.

The news comes in the wake of a December announcement by the Ontario government that it was ordering a full investigation into what went wrong with the Ottawa LRT, which has suffered one malfunction after another since it was opened amid great fanfare in 2019.

Nicholas Truchon the head of the group that designed and built the LRT said the city rushed the opening, ignoring the consortium’s recommendation that there be a “soft launch” of the system with city buses running in parallel to the LRT until all the bugs were worked out. “The city disregarded this recommendation due to the political push to get the system operational,” Truchon says in a court affidavit.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who is not seeking re-election, dismissed the charge that politics were behind the opening.

“I fundamentally disagree with their interpretation because they actually presented me a giant key to say here’s the start of the LRT,” Watson said Wednesday.

Triumphant Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson holds symbolic key to the Ottawa LRT aloft in the system’s inaugural day City of Ottawa photo

“So they actually gave that to me launching the LRT. It was their call, and obviously we consulted with them.”

The consortium, RTG, is a partnership of ACS Infrastructure, EllisDon and SNC-Lavalin. The city suing for default and has already held back $55 Million in payments to the contractor group as part of a 30-year maintenance agreement.

 RTG maintains the problems that started after the 2019 launch aren’t unique for a new transit system. Saying they  “are a normal part of the natural bedding-in period of a project of this nature. These issues were aggravated by the city’s decision to discontinue concurrent bus service during the start up period leaving no alternative to its ridership. However, the public and elected officials have seemed unwilling to accept the normal growing pains associated with bringing a system of this nature online.”

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