Calls for judicial inquiry into LRT grow louder ahead of council meeting

Calls for a judicial inquiry into Ottawa's Confederation Line light rail system are growing louder ahead of a key vote at Ottawa City Council.

Councillors meet Wednesday to vote on the issue. Also up for debate is whether to rip up the 30-year maintenance contract with Rideau Transit Maintenance.

"We have the right to know why these sorts of things, like derailments and things like that, that make people feel unsafe on transit, keep happening," said Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa. "We should at least see what it is, see what it takes and see if we can get a better deal for the residents of Ottawa because at the end of the day that's what everyone wants."

The city solicitor sent a memo ahead of the meeting, saying that judicial inquiries can be incredibly expensive, up to $20 million in some cases, that they may not provide the answers people are seeking, and that there's no timeline for their completion.

"Doing nothing far outweighs the cost of an inquiry," said Coun. Catherine McKenney, who is putting forward the motion to hold an inquiry. "We have spent over six billion dollars on our rail system in this city; we do not have one train on a track today."

A rally in support of holding a judicial inquiry was held at Ottawa City Hall Tuesday afternoon.

Repairs are underway at the site of the Sept. 19 derailment near Tremblay station. A safety review continues and there is no date for when service could resume.

"To understand why that is the case, why we ended up with a system that's dysfunctional as we're building out the rest of the system is absolutely critical," McKenney added.

With the LRT offline, R1 buses have been shuttling passengers the length of the line. Some residents of Hintonburg say they're unhappy to see the buses back on the streets for so long.

"All of a sudden the buses are running up and down in front of my house again, rattling my house and creating cracks in my walls," said Cindy Richard.

Other residents point to fencing put up over the weekend beside Tom Brown Arena.

"We're locked out of our community for LRT parking when there's a huge parking lot just the other side of Scott street that's about three times or four times the size of this and closer to the LRT, so why don't they park there?" asks Cheryl Parrott.

Residents say it's another frustrating aspect of the LRT.

"It's not what the developers want, it's what Hintonburg needs and we need our greenspace," Richard said. 

A separate rally was held Tuesday afternoon at Tom Brown Arena to protest the fencing and the loss of green space.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA, Coun. Allan Hubley, the chair of the transit commission, said he hoped to have new information by the end of this week or early next week on when the Confederation Line will return to service.

Hubley also apologized for the troubles with the R1 service.

"It was never designed to operate for this length of time," Hubley said. "The shutdown had to be done to allow the Transportation Safety Board to conduct a thorough investigation but it wasn't easy on our riders and, for that, I apologize."