On September 14, 2019 the City of Ottawa launched the Light Rail Transit system that was designed to be the backbone of Ottawa’s transit system. This system was built by the Rideau Transit Group (RTG), who is solely responsible for designing, building, financing, and maintaining the City of Ottawa’s Confederation Line for the next 30 years. In the nearly 6 months since the LRT was launched, Ottawa transit users have seen a seemingly never-ending stream of issues including: jammed doors, signaling issues, snagged overhead lines, and fewer trains in service. RTG is the single point of responsibility in the contract with the City of Ottawa, and they then contract out the work to companies such as Alstom, the maker of the Citadis Spirit Trains that are currently in use across the Confederation Line.
The City of Ottawa, with the unanimous support of Ottawa Councillors, has now issued a Notice of Default to RTG, as per the terms of the Project Agreement. On March 9th, Mayor Watson introduced the motion that sets a deadline of March 31st, 2020 for RTG to demonstrate their willingness to step up, to rapidly mobilize their significant resources and to provide Ottawa with a credible plan to restore reliability.
For the past 6 months, the service provided to Ottawa transit users has been nothing short of a failure. The Confederation Line is the linchpin of our transit system and the contract with RTG sets a high bar to ensure the required level of service is being delivered to the City and transit customers.
Acting in good faith, the City will not dictate the length of time RTG needs to repair the system – RTG has the resources and expertise to provide the City with a credible, realistic timeframe. The patience of Ottawa residents and transit customers has come to an end and the partners that make up RTG need to take greater responsibility for improving their performance and that of their sub-contractors.
RTG needs to bring their full capability and strength to this project, triple shifts, spending resources, and send in more of their best experts – whatever it takes.
To be clear, taking this step does not risk interrupting rail service and even with it, it will still take some time to improve the reliability of the system. However, this opens up legal tools in the City’s toolbox in their dealings with RTG as it provides notice that we find them to be in default in upholding their side of the contract.
The City entered into this partnership in good faith – and thankfully we are protected by a strong P3 contract. However, the wait and see approach that Ottawa has been taking must come to an end, and a clear and final path must be laid out for service reliability by RTG and must be done so by a firm deadline – March 31st, 2020.