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Public perception forces City of Ottawa to ditch STV as third party LRT safety expert

City Manager Steve Kanellakos said there are very few firms with the necessary expertise that have not been engaged in some aspect of Ottawa's light rail project.
2019-07-26 lrt ottawa o-train light rail MV4
O-Train sign outside of Tunney's Pasture Station, 2019. Mike Vlasveld/ CityNews

The City of Ottawa is relaunching its search for a third party firm to review its light rail return-to-service plan after manager Steve Kanellakos admitted that originally retaining STV for the job didn't look good to the public.

STV has familiarity with the Confederation Line and has provided consulting services to the city in the past, explained Kanellakos in a memo, but they were not involved in the design of the rail line and had not provided services to Rideau Transit Group (RTG) or their subcontractors. 

The city manager said STV would have been subject to conflict management protocols and measures would have be adopted and followed to ensure the segregation of the relevant personnel, the confidentiality of their assessment and the objectivity of their work.

"While the objectivity and expertise of STV is not in question in any way, I also recognize that public trust related to all aspects of the Confederation Line 1 is low right now, and I do not want any perception challenges to get in the way of residents’ confidence in the findings and verification of the independent reviewer," Kanellakos wrote.

STV was told on Monday, September 28, that they would not be retained as the city's independent safety expert after all, and Kanellakos said they support the decision. 

"I have started to work with [Sam Berrada, Regulatory Monitor Compliance Officer (RMCO)] to obtain a new professional engineering firm, to undertake this work."

Kanellakos added, there are very few firms with the necessary expertise that have not been engaged in some aspect of the City’s LRT project, "however, best efforts will be made to find a firm that meets the spirit of the Transit Commissions’ direction to staff."

Transportation Safety Board investigators continue to assess the recent O-Train derailments.

The City of Ottawa will not accept the return to service for the O-Train Confederation Line until the independent, third-party safety review has been completed and the RTG plan has been accepted. 

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