LRT Public Inquiry concludes after four weeks
The four weeklong Public Inquiry into the LRT wrapped up this week bringing with it extraordinary degree of transparency, accountability, and answers. The inquiry exposed information that was previously unknown to Ottawa residents as well as City Councillors. The scope of the public inquiry included thousand of documents, many witnesses and provided opportunities for lawyers to ask important questions to get the answers we are all looking for.
I share the surprise of many residents after seeing the video footage of a Rideau Transit Maintenance Manager taking his family off a train because he considered it would not get them to their destination. I would have expected that more should have been done if it was thought something was not right. This “noise” of concern led to what was the derailed train pulling out of Tremblay Station last fall that brought us to the public inquiry.
It is disturbing to hear that a city engineer and rail manager knew that there were reliability issues that could potentially interfere with the provision of reliable service to the public. And that they would fix these anticipated issues along the way.
The litany of WhatsApp messages with city management, showing the angst of the Mayor on the many shortfalls of the new transit system, are also very concerning to me. I am disappointed that these discussions of apprehension about the project were not shared with the Transit Commission or City Councillors. I was pleased that Justice Hourigan insisted that the WhatsApp group chats, that were not originally ordered into the request for documents, were part of the inquiry.
Right now, the city is moving forward on the Stage 2 construction that was voted on without all the information on the technical scores being available, and before having the experience of seeing the Stage 1 system brought into service. There are lessons learned from Stage 1 but given the major shortfalls, including derailments, it would have been better to have seen the trains run before the Stage 2 budget was decided. As Stage 2 LRT is being constructed through Bay Ward, I have been and will continue to keep in close contact with the city staff and the consortium on its progress as well as keep residents informed and engaged by bringing any issues or concerns forward.
The final report from the commission will be delivered to the minister of Transportation, Honourable Caroline Mulroney, at the end of August 2022. I look forward to hearing the recommendations that come from this inquiry.