Councillors, citizen transit commissioner raises concerns about lack of information at LRT inquiry

The 13th day of public hearings at the inquiry into Ottawa's light rail transit system revealed how poorly the trial-running period went before the launch of the system, which eventually led to stage one breakdowns and derailments. 

Testimony at the inquiry Wednesday afternoon showed some of the testing data, which indicated a fail only weeks before the launch in September 2019. City officials testified they were not made aware of the situation at the time. 

"We are public corporations spending public dollars and we should not be hiding that kind of information from public view and from the decision makers who have a duty of oversight," testified Coun. Diane Deans. 

Transit officials had said in 2019 that there would not be regular updates to council and the media about the trial run and that they would only speak to it after it was finished.

A group of councillors and a citizen transit commissioner testified that they were left in the dark on how the system was operating before the launch date.

“Information was being withheld from council and transit commission,” testified citizen transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert.

A scorecard for one of the testing days in 2019 was revealed at the inquiry, which showed how poorly the system tested on specific days of the trial period. On July 31, the card showed a fail at around 73 per cent. 

The inquiry heard how the trial testing was paused the next day, a situation reserved only when the system is not meeting specific requirements. 

The inquiry then heard how later that month, the trial testing was adjusted.

"The train had not passed the 12 day performance testing and then the performance standards were being adjusted to meet RSA,” said Coun. Catherine McKenney.

As testimony continued, Transit Commission chair and Coun. Allan Hubley, was grilled on his participation in a private WhatsApp chat channel, which included former OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi and other city officials like the mayor, who discussed the project.

Hubley was asked whether he thought the rest of council should have had the benefit of that information.

"My recollection is that most of that information, if not all of that information, was eventually shared with council as part of the briefings," said Hubley.

City officials testified that they were never briefed on the situation during the trial-running period.

When the testing scorecard was revealed, Hubley said he had never seen one of those cards during the WhatsApp chats or at any point. That he only knew the system failed, but not specifically how bad the failure was.