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City report does not include possible opening date for Trillium Line LRT, but offers timeline clues

A Trillium Line train parked at South Keys Station on Thursday, May 16. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa) A Trillium Line train parked at South Keys Station on Thursday, May 16. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa)
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A report prepared for a joint meeting of the Transit Commission and the LRT Subcommittee on May 31 does not contain any reference to an opening date for the delayed north-south Trillium Line, but it does suggest that the final testing required before the line can be opened could be completed before September.

The LRT line that runs from Bayview Station in the north to Limebank Station in the south, with a spur to the Ottawa Airport, was originally supposed to open in August of 2022. It has been delayed several times since then and OC Transpo officials have been hesitant to commit to any firm date when riders could expect to be on board the trains. The most recent indication of when the line might open for riders pushes the date into September at the latest, though officials would not say one way or the other whether a September opening could be achieved.

According to a report prepared for the May 31 meeting, some of the work that still needs to be done isn't scheduled to be completed until the end of June. Final signal and train control testing, communication systems testing, and final integration between the Transit Operations Control Centre and the field devices is expected to be largely complete between now and the end of June. Training is expected to be complete in early June and occupancy certificates for all stations are expected before the end of June. Final fire system testing, testing of the countdown passenger information messages on the station displays, and some residual integration tests are remaining.

Once the training is complete, the next major step is to effectively simulate regular service on the line, increasing the hours trains are running to what they would be once passengers are able to board. This is meant to ensure operators can safety run the system during normal hours but also to make sure the maintenance team can do its work during the shorter overnight windows between each service day.

This is expected to last eight to ten weeks, meaning it could continue well into August.

"Ideally, the system will be operated at the final service plan levels for a period of eight to ten weeks prior to opening to the public. Within this period, a decision will be made to start Trial Running once it has been clearly demonstrated all prerequisites have been met, that the operations and maintenance teams can deliver the required service levels and that the integrated system meets the reliability and performance objectives," the report says.

Trial running is a 21-day period of testing that is required before TransitNEXT — the SNC-Lavalin subsidiary building the line — can hand the system over to the city to open to the public. This is broken down into two parts, a 14-day service reliability test and a seven-day "failure scenario management" period.

Trial running can take place within the aforementioned eight to ten weeks of final service plan level testing, meaning it could also be completed sometime in August.

Before trial running can begin, several criteria must be met:

1) The integrated System Infrastructure has been tested.

2) The complete fleet is fully tested and ready for passenger service.

3) The complete signaling and train control system and associated Transit Operations Control Centre (TOCC) equipment is fully tested and ready for passenger service.

4) There are no outstanding defects (major or minor) affecting rail systems functionality, including track, signals, and communications.

5) There are no major defects, safety defects, or incomplete vehicle modification programs.

6) All stations are substantially complete with only minor deficiencies remaining.

7) TransitNEXT is fully mobilized and ready to commence maintenance, including availability of required maintenance staff, parts, maintenance equipment, Maintenance Management and Performance Reporting System (MMPRS), and completion of training.

8) TransitNEXT has submitted the Maintenance & Rehabilitation Compliance Verification & Validation Matrix.

9) The City is fully mobilized, trained and ready to operate the System.

The 14-day test requires a minimum of 98.5 per cent on-time performance, calculated using a 14-day rolling average of the on-time performance achieved each day. The city defines 98.5 per cent on time performance as "a train departing the terminus station no later than 30 seconds after its scheduled departure time, while respecting a minimum terminus dwell time of three minutes."

The seven-day failure scenario testing will test things like stopped trains, faulty doors and other common issues. This segment does not determine the pass/fail outcome for trial running acceptance, the report says. "Its purpose is to validate the effectiveness of the City and TransitNEXT in implementing failure management standard operating procedures in preparation for revenue service."

Once trial running is finished, there are still some final checks before passengers can start boarding the trains, including final verification reports, a review by the city's independent safety auditor, a certification of fitness to operate from the Canadian Transportation Agency, and the issuance of a railway operating certificate by Transport Canada.

The city will look at three criteria to ensure the Trillium Line is ready to accept passengers:

1) The overall system had been thoroughly exercised with extensive running of nine train operations between January 2024 through May 2024;

2) The system had been operated and maintained at the final service levels and in the final system configuration for a recommended period of eight to ten weeks after completion of training; and,

3) No new or emergent safety or reliability defects arose during the final running period that require additional rectification time before opening the system to the public.

Only at that point would the city be in a position to recommend an opening date to the Light Rail Subcommittee.

The extensive testing and requisite steps to trial running came about after the public inquiry into Stage 1 of LRT, which found changes to the criteria for accepting the system, a failure to soft launch the system in 2019, and "considerable" political pressure to begin operation of the Confederation Line. 

The report does indicate that some non-critical work might be delayed even after the system launches. Things such as "final landscaping, some specific roadway works, and some multiuse pathway work" might be deferred, the report says, though "soft and hard landscaping works continue to take place at all stations." Work is also continuing on the pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River near Carleton University, with the installation of light fixtures and bridge approach work.

The joint Transit Commission and Light Rail Subcommittee meeting is scheduled for May 31 at 9:30 a.m. and will also include an update on the cartridge bearing assembly on Line 1 trains and an operations update for rail, bus and Para Transpo services.

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