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OC Transpo will still not commit to opening date for Trillium Line

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OC Transpo officials suggest it will be the summer before passengers begin riding the Trillium Line, with several hurdles still to clear before service begins on Ottawa's new north-south line.

The media was invited to tour construction on the new line that will run between Bayview Station and Riverside South, with a spur to the Ottawa International Airport on Thursday. OC Transpo says work has progressed to allow it to run vehicles seven days a week as construction nears the finish line.

Ottawa's director of rail construction Michael Morgan says six to eight weeks of training and testing will be required once operator training is complete. Morgan won't commit to the LRT line opening by September.

"We're still finishing training," Morgan told reporters on Thursday morning.

"Training is intended to wrap up in the first or second week of June, from there we're really going to go to the full service schedule. Once we're at the full service schedule that will give us the opportunity to really test the maintainer on the overnight period to make sure we do the inspections, the vehicle cleaning and refuelling during that tight window – we need to be in that for a period of time."

"Once we have confidence that we are going to pass trial running, we would enter trial running. Trial running is three weeks; from that point we would make a decision about opening."

The transit service plans to train a total of 70 rail operators, who will each have to complete 150 hours of on-the-job training. The maintenance contractor will also need to "practice cleaning, refueling and inspecting trains during the overnight period," the transit service says.

Morgan says the best case scenario would see six to 10 weeks of testing, starting in mid-June, before the Trillium Line launches.

"The system has been working well. There's still a couple of things we need to work out," Morgan.

"Ideally, we're on to that full schedule for, you know, a period of 6 to 10 weeks, really making sure everything's solid and we're good to go."

OC Transpo says nine vehicles are currently running "as frequently as possible" to identify reliability and performance issues with the trains, systems and processes.

Derek Moran, manager of rail operation says South Keys Station is "very important because it's the transition point for people coming from or going to the airport." He says passengers don't need to switch platforms. "So when they disembarked their train coming in from the airport with their luggage, those people who are more encumbered don't have far to go. They only have to walk a few spaces and then they're on their train going downtown."

Moran says that training is a key component during testing and commissioning.

"We are doing lots of drills, lots of exercises so that we don't just know how to run the system efficiently under normal operations, but also we'll be able to react to any unforeseen circumstances, or emergencies so that the system will recover from a disruption really quickly should it happen," he said. "We have been seeing a lot of progress. You know, if you look at the infrastructure, it really looks like it's in great shape. And we haven't had any unexpected mid large problems yet. I don't think we will. These vehicles are tried and true in other properties and we've been very happy with their performance."

Recruiting drivers continues to be a challenge, however.

"Recruitment is a challenge across the globe right now, and we're doing very well. We have a lot of in-house talent, really good operators on the bus side," said Moran. "That's where we recruit from for rail operations. So we already have people who have proven safety records and customer service, positive engagement records." 

O-Train Line 2 was originally scheduled to open in August 2022, but has been delayed several times.  In February, staff suggested trial running could begin in May, with launch at the end of June or early July.

A report for the light-rail transit sub-committee this spring showed the window for trial operations and passenger service launch between May and September.

Councillors will receive an update on construction during a joint meeting of the transit commission and the LRT-sub commitee on May 31.

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