City staff were aware of reliability issues with Ottawa light rail transit system before launch

The ninth day of Ottawa’s light rail transit public inquiry revealed that city staff were aware of reliability issues with the system before the launch in September 2019.

The admission was made during testimony from city staff member, Richard Holder, on Thursday.

“The city knew there were reliability issues that could interfere with the provision of reliable service to the public,” asked Kate McGrann, co-lead counsel during the inquiry.

“That’s correct,” testified Holder.

Holder went on to reveal that there were signs the LRT wouldn’t operate smoothly after the launch.

“In July 2019 during the trial that you were running, when you were actually running the trains up and down the tracks, was demonstrating that there was significant problems with the reliability of the train track,” asked John McLuckie, a lawyer for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 during the testimony.

“There were issues with the reliability, yes,” replied Holder.

McGrann went on to question Holder on whether the city knew there was a real risk that more issues would be discovered as the system continued to run.

“There was a potential for that risk,” replied Holder.

Holder oversaw parts of the Stage 1 LRT project working in the city of Ottawa’s rail office.

Thursday’s testimony also highlighted how the city knew there was a shortage of maintenance staff as preparations for the launch were underway.

“The Alston maintenance team was understaffed at that point in 2019,” asked McLuckie. 

Holder confirmed this was the case and when asked about what the city did in response, he said the staffing issue was raised during the trial running period as there were concerns over the number of people to undertake maintenance.

He said the city moved forward with the launch in September 2019 because the team felt the project agreement requirements had been met.

When question on whether he or anyone at the city was aware of the system being not safe to launch or not fit to use, Holder replied no during testimony. 

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