Ottawa puts blame on contractors in closing statement at LRT public inquiry

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

In a written closing statement at the Ottawa Light Rail Transit public inquiry, the City of Ottawa put blame on contractors for issues with the system.

“(Rideau Transit Group) let the city down and it is RTG that should be called to account in respect of the issues affecting reliability of the system so that transit riders in the city can rely on this new system that they bought and paid for. Taxpayers should not bear the burden of private sector failures,” the city’s legal counsel wrote in the closing statement.

However, RTG has argued that the city “often seemed driven by political motivation rather than advice from its consultants”.

Ongoing issues include derailments and wheel cracking.

The city’s counsel for the inquiry said contractors involved in the project should be held responsible “for the historic and ongoing failures in the design, construction and maintenance of the LRT.”

The city’s statement indicated “a strong desire to hold to account the private contractors responsible for the historic and ongoing failures in the design, construction and maintenance of the LRT.”

Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP prepared the statement or the inquiry, arguing the city was “focused on the commission’s core mandate, which is to identify the circumstances and contributing factors that led to several problems with the Stage 1 LRT, including several breakdowns and derailments.

The city agreed that residents are rightfully frustrated that the LRT has not always lived up to expectations.

“Although the project was completed on budget, unlike the majority of similar projects, taxpayers have continued to bear the burden of private sector failures in the operations of the Confederation Line.

“It is the City’s strong desire to ensure RTG and its subcontractors are held accountable for the multiple failures in design, construction and maintenance.

In closing, the City of Ottawa’s submission’s included recommendations:

  • An independent review of performance, deductions and the administration of the payment mechanism could be conducted in the first year of service.
  • The project agreement should have more specific requirements for early engagement by the maintainer.
  • The city should clearly communicate with Council when it plans to report and about what, at the outset of a project.
  • The process for funding and cost sharing of megaprojects should be reorganized to reflect the complexity of the project and to account for procurement and delivery risks.

In its closing statement, RTG Parties said Ottawa officials set “unrealistic expectations” and “an inappropriately rigid and adversarial approach to the project.”

“In many ways, the problems that arose during the construction and launch of the system — delays to the originally projected completion date and reliability problems with the vehicles that disrupted service — were reasonably common problems for a complex infrastructure project like this one,” RTG Parties wrote in its closing statement.

In its list of suggestions, the contractor suggested public authorities limit political interference in projects and improve transparency, arguing “optimism bias” often applies in complex projects and “is a structural problem . . . that requires a structural solution.”

Infrastructure Ontario’s closing statement argued there is no evidence that the city’s choice of a P3, or public-private partnership delivery model for the mega-project played any role in subsequent problems “or that P3s should be abandoned as an option where appropriate to the needs of a project.”

The public hearing was held at the University of Ottawa from June 13 to July 7, with 41 witnesses testifying.

The deadline for Commissioner Justice William Hourigan’s final report and recommendations has been extended until Nov. 30.

 

 

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