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Watson has not considered resigning over LRT fiasco

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OTTAWA -

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he has not considered resigning over the ongoing troubles with one of his signature achievements, the Confederation Line LRT.

The line opened in September 2019 to fanfare and celebration, even though it was more than a year later than expected. Within weeks, problems began cropping up on the line, leading to long waits, stuck trains and frustrated customers.

There were numerous full-line shut downs over the course of the pandemic to work out the kinks that came up during the first few months of service on the brand new system, but problems persist.

Then, in August 2021, a train derailed, leading to a five-day closure as crews worked to resolve the problems. Six weeks after that, on Sept. 19, a second derailment crippled the line. It remains out of service to this day, nearly seven weeks later.

When asked by CTV News Ottawa's Patricia Boal in an interview on the CTV News at Six, Watson said he has not thought about resigning and he plans to see the fixes on LRT to their end.

"No, I haven't because I want to make sure the problems are resolved once and for all," he said.

Watson had just presided over a special meeting of council to introduce the draft 2022 budget, which includes a 2.5 per cent fare hike for OC Transpo fares, despite the issues on the LRT and the impact those have had on the transit system.

Watson stressed that the bus system is still operational.

"The rest of the system actually is up and running. There's obviously R1 service, it's supplementary to the rest of the service but the rest of the system is working," he said, while admitting the LRT is "not anywhere near the level of reliability that we are paying for and that we demand" from the Rideau Transit Group, Rideau Transit Maintenance, and Alstom, the train manufacturer.

"We've put tremendous pressure on RTG and RTM and Alstom, the supplier of the trains. We've held back all of their funds because we're not getting any service, we're not going to pay them. That's pretty obvious," the mayor said. "And we're continuing to keep that pressure on by hiring and independent safety advisor that will be reporting out to the public and to the media in the next couple of days with their report and their findings on when we can start the train service."

The city hired Transportation Research Associates (TRA) to independently certify the work performed by RTG and RTM before service can be restored. The target date of Nov. 1 set by RTG to restore partial service has passed, but Watson said he was confident there would be some "good news" in the coming days on a resumption of service on the LRT. The city had anticipated a partial return to service within the first two weeks of November, with full service likely restored by mid-December.

"We continue to put pressure on them and we continue to ensure that we're going to come back with the train system but, first and foremost, it has to be done in a safe and secure fashion," Watson said.

"That's my number one priority as mayor of this city."

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