OTTAWA -- Council is giving the builder of the six-month-old Confederation Line until the end of the month to come up with a plan to fix the light rail transit system.

After a four hour in-camera session to discuss the Confederation Line, Council voted 19-0 to issue a notice of default to Rideau Transit Group over the ongoing issues.

"The hammer dropped on RTG today," said Allan Hubley, chair of the Transit Commission

In a statement, the city says “this escalation of the city’s legal rights is in response to Rideau Transit Group’s failure to address significant issues with train and station availability, and the multiple failures that have continued across the light-rail transit system since the start of service. There will be no interruption to rail service, and the city and municipal taxpayers are protected under the Project Agreement.”

Mayor Jim Watson says the notice of default is a “contractual notice under the project agreement. It is a strong tool because it advises Rideau Transit Group that it is in default of its contract – mainly because it’s not meeting the minimum contractual standards of performance.”

The notice of default to be delivered to Rideau Transit Group on Tuesday gives the company until March 31 to deliver a plan for fixing the problems.  

“RTG needs to do whatever it takes to improve the reliability of the system and deliver the service we paid for,” said Watson.

The city is also asking Rideau Transit Group to take a much more active role in compelling its key contractors, including Alstom, to improve their performance on an urgent basis.

Since the launch of the Confederation Line on Sept. 14, there’s been a long list of issues with the system, including: door faults, power issues, wheel flats, brake issues and switch problems.

Two weeks ago, only six trains were operating at one point along the route from Blair to Tunney’s Pasture.

Some Councillors and Citizen Transit Commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert have suggested the city rip-up the contract with Rideau Transit Group.

“Bottom line this is a clear message we are serious about wanting the service we contracted for and will take whatever necessary steps to get a better experience for our ridership,” said Hubley on Monday evening. 

Watson told Council “we will enforce the contract to get us the service we paid for. This contract backstops RTG’s accountability to provide us with a fully reliable service.”

City Manager Steve Kanellakos says this is the first time the City of Ottawa has issued a notice of default to a company.

“It’s a very serious step within the contract agreement. It basically is putting them on notice that we’ve taken the first step to terminate the contract should they not rectify the issues they have not been able to meet,” Kanellakos said.

City staff will report back to Council in April on Rideau Transit Group’s plan to fix the issues.

“As we approach the six month mark, RTG has dramatically exceeded the number of failure points allowed under the contract agreement. They’ve consistently failed to reach their obligations,” said Watson.

“The patience of our residents and transit customers has come to an end. My patience, and I think all members of Council, has come to an end.”