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Ottawa to get keys to new light-rail line by March 31 after multiple delays

Written by Paul Conley
Confederation Line tunnel Ottawa
City of Ottawa

The consortium building Ottawa’s light rail transit (LRT) Confederation Line says it will finish construction work in the first quarter of 2019.

The new date was announced Thursday evening in a memo to the city council from rail construction program director Michael Morgan. Ottawa had expected the consortium, Rideau Transit Group (RTG), to provide a new handover date for the $2.1 billion LRT line on Wednesday, Jan. 2. But RTG requested more time. Ottawa gave RTG a one-day extension.

RTG had twice before missed deadlines — in May and November of last year. After missing the November deadline, RTG was hit with a $1 million penalty.

Some of the biggest names in the rail and construction industries are participants in RTG, including ACS Infrastructure Canada, EllisDon, SNC Lavalin, Alstom, Thurber Engineering, et al.

Under the terms of the city’s contract with RTG, the consortium is to complete all civil work, construction of mechanical and electrical systems, delivery of all light rail vehicles, erect all signage and wayfinding systems, install the in-train announcements and public announcement system, secure safety certifications, reach compliance with an independent safety audit, and successfully complete trial runs.

The Confederation Line is the first phase of a plan to install light-rail around the city. The Confederation Line will connect to the existing Bus Rapid Transitway at Tunney’s Pasture Station in , and to the O-Train at Bayview Station. A central feature of the Line is a a 2.5-km tunnel under the city’s downtown, which officials hope will reduce congestion.

Much of the delay can be traced to the development of a sinkhole on Rideau Street in June 2016. Tunneling in wet, sandy soil led to a collapse that ruptured a water main and flooded the Rideau Street station. It took 3,000 cubic metres of concrete to fill the hole and stabilize the tunnel enough that construction could resume, according to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

Work on the line does now appear to be close to completion, based on updates posted to the Confederation Line’s website. Multiple trains were running a closed loop between Blair and Tunney’s Pasture Station in full Automatic Train Operation (ATO), by mid-December. The track and Overheard Catenary System (OCS) were certified for operation by November.

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