OTTAWA -- A frustrated head of OC Transpo says he is not confident Rideau Transit Group will fix the issues with Ottawa's nine-month-old Confederation Line by the end of the summer.

The Transit Commission received an update on RTG's efforts to address the issues with the light-rail transit system on Wednesday, including plans for a shutdown on Sunday.

Transportation Services General Manager John Manconi said RTG has been calling "every second day" asking for payments from the City of Ottawa for service, adding the easiest way to be paid is to make the system reliable.

"I'm not putting this organization, and I'm not putting yourselves and our customers through another winter of hell," said Manconi, when discussing the push by the city to fix the Confederation Line as soon as possible.

"I made that clear to RTG, and they're not getting paid because they're not producing product. We're not going to lose the bad experiences. I am not forgetting New Year's Eve. January was horrible for our service, our brand, our customers."

The Confederation Line will be shut down on Sunday for maintenance, and it will run at reduced capacity between Blair and uOttawa stations from Monday to Wednesday while RTG conducts maintenance work.

Manconi told the Transit Commission that Rideau Transit Group has been "guarded" with information on the fixes and any help from outside agencies.  Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Manconi said the lack of information is not "ill-intentioned", adding the COVID-19 pandemic has meant information is "not as free-flowing as they were" before.

In response to a question from Citizen Transit Commission Sarah Wright-Gilbert about confidence that the system will be fixed by the end of August, Manconi said, "We are not confident that they are tracking to the end of August, that's because they have not confirmed to us in writing that they can achieve that date."

"I’m not happy right now, nor is the City Manager (Steve Kanellakos). We need the service to be reliable and consistent."

Manconi said Council would receive an in-camera update on the contract with Rideau Transit Group and the maintenance work in July.

Manconi told the Transit Commission that the City of Ottawa is in the middle of a disagreement between RTG and its partners. Manconi said the construction arm of Rideau Transit Group says the infrastructure is "perfect and fine" and you have Alstom saying their vehicles "are perfect and fine. And they're blaming each other."

"Are position is, we really don't care. We didn't buy a system where we're in the middle of you folks. We bought a service that is very simple and straightforward."

Manconi said there has been "a lot progress" with the Confederation Line over the spring, with more vehicles in service and work to the catenary system.

Rideau Transit Group has told the city that it will have 15 double-vehicles in service for weekday peak periods at the start of August.  Only 13 trains were running during peak periods starting in September, but service was reduced to only seven trains at times in January.

OC Transpo's Troy Charter outlined some of the work completed by Rideau Transit Group this spring on the Confederation Line. It included:

  • Ongoing testing of updated train control software and communication system software to improve vehicle and system performance
  • Detailed cleaning and inspection of the overhead catenary system
  • Inspections and adjustments of the overhead catenary system to optimize the positioning of the wires
  • Track work including adjustment of the ballast to correct settlement issues
  • Installation of new vehicle passenger door software to reduce door related disruptions and door faults
  • Vehicle retrofit work and modification work, routine maintenance, inspections, and corrective maintenance

Charter says OC Transpo and RTG are working on long-term plans to resolve track conditions, review performance tracking and confirm the final overhead catenary system configuration.

Manconi says OC Transpo offered to shut down the Confederation Line for the entire month of July to allow RTG and RTM to address the issues.