Councillors ask Ontario's Ombudsman to probe Ottawa's Light Rail Transit system
OTTAWA -- A group of Councillors wants Ontario’s Ombudsman to take a look at Ottawa’s light rail transit system.
In a Tuesday morning media conference, the group asked the Ombudsman to investigate and report on the procurement, construction and management of the Confederation Line, as well as the procurement for stage two of the system.
The seven councillors attending the media conference were Shawn Menard, Catherine McKenney, Rawlson King, Mathieu Fleury, Carol Anne Meehan, Riley Brockington and Theresa Cavanagh.
In a letter to the Ombudsman, the councillors said “within the first two months, the system had broken down more than 50 times. Since then, there have been many chronic issues, including flat wheels, broken rails, pieces of the electrical power catenary system falling off, door jams, power issues, frozen switches, software problems, and more.”
The councillors add they have been “frustrated in our attempts to learn more about the contracts, the technical reports, and the overall management of the system due to contractual obligations to protect the vendors’ proprietary information.”
The letter ends with the councillors saying “we request that you review the circumstances that have led to this situation and that you provide recommendations to help us find solutions and prevent future problems.”
The group plans to ask full Council to endorse its call for the Ombudsman to look into the light rail transit system at the next Council meeting on March 25.
In addition to asking the Ombudsman to look at Ottawa's LRT system, the councillors proposed three other initiatives.
- The city seek independent advice from a law firm to review the terms of the warranty with Alstom.
- Additional legal advice regarding Rideau Transit Maintenance’s contract, and when and how they can dissolve it due to failure to perform
- Hire a mass transit expert to advise and help design an effective train-bus system.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Gloucester—South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan said she feels the review will help clear the air.
"It doesn't pass the smell test for me and the perception is out there that there's something wrong," she said. "I think that's why we need to go to the Ombudsman now. We have to ask for a proper, independent review. We have to try every avenue possible in order to clear this up, to make sure without a shadow of a doubt that nothing is untoward. Right now, the perception is that something has gone on and I think that's eroding the confidence that a lot of people have in the process and in the way the City runs."
Late Monday afternoon, the city released documents related to the awarding of the contract to expand the Trillium Line.
The city says the legal opinion suggested the city’s technical evaluation process for stage two was flawed, which could have put the city at significant legal risk had they nixed the proposal by SNC-Lavalin.
Coun. Menard has also asked staff about the cost and process to terminate the contract with Rideau Transit Group and Rideau Transit Maintenance for the Confederation Line.
Staff said the city needs more time to figure out the cost, and a report could be ready by the Council meeting on March 25.