A train on the The Confederation Line LRT system near Lees Station in Ottawa on July 29, 2019.
Errol McGihon / Postmedia
There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel for the first phase of Ottawa’s largest-ever infrastructure project, with the Rideau Transit Group starting a mandatory 12-day trial run of the Confederation Line LRT and OC Transpo preparing a public launch.The 12-day trial is RTG’s final exam and the reward for the construction consortium is huge: $202.3 million. The city will be required to release the money, which is a milestone payment that’s part of the overall $2.1-billion project cost, if RTG passes the exam.On the weekend, the city announced that LRT construction and testing is complete and that the mandatory 12-day trial would begin this week.The objectives of the 12-consecutive-day trial run are detailed in the contract between RTG and the city. According to the 2013 agreement, two of the overarching goals over the 12 days are to make sure “there are no deficiencies to prevent safe running of the system” and to verify that there’s an “adequate number of trained staff to operate the system.”During the trial, RTG will run peak and non-peak schedules on the 12.5-kilometre line without taking passengers. Fifteen double-car trains will run during the peak times.Every part of LRT operations will be tested — elevators and escalators, the public address system, surveillance cameras, ventilation system in the 2.5-kilometre tunnel, fare gates, maintenance program — to make sure the rail line is ready for prime time.The trial will also give RTG the chance to test scenarios that manage mishaps during operations — the so-called “failure management.” In other words, what happens when the entire LRT line or part of it needs to shut down unexpectedly.A commissioning team will review the operations each day of the trial run. If there’s a major deficiency, RTG would need to fix the problem and reset the 12-day countdown clock.The public shouldn’t expect to hear much from the city during the 12-day trial. Staff made it clear to council members there wouldn’t be updates until after the test period is finished.Starting the 12-day trial this week gives RTG a buffer in case there need to be tweaks during the simulation.RTG has told the city it can hand over the LRT system by Aug. 16. If the consortium doesn’t, the city can apply another $1-million penalty, just like it has for the missed handover deadlines on May 24, 2018, Nov. 2, 2018, and March 31.The handover in the contract is called the “revenue service availability,” which means the city would be in a position to start running the LRT line with customers that day. However, after taking possession of the train system the city and Transpo will spend up to four weeks to prepare for the launch.The $202.3-million payment to RTG is tied to revenue service availability. There was another payment, $59.4 million, tied to the recent substantial completion phase, which was the first time RTG received money from the city in more than a year, since there was no payment made during the LRT delay. The city has been sitting on all the outstanding payment money and collecting interest while waiting for RTG to finish the job.When the project’s independent certifier and the city’s safety certifier signs off on the revenue service availability, the LRT system will be in Transpo’s hands.The four-week preparation will be the first time Transpo stress-tests the LRT system with a mass of people. Two simulations involving city workers, their family and friends will help Transpo see how people navigate the 13 stations and, if necessary, make last-minute changes to customer wayfinding signs and staffing.As for RTG, it will fully transition Stage 1 LRT to a 30-year maintenance program under its affiliate Rideau Transit Maintenance before the parent consortium continues to pump out more Alstom trains to fulfill a Stage 2 LRT order. RTG will also maintain the Stage 2 LRT rail extensions.If revenue service availability happens Aug. 16, regular customers will be riding trains in September.email@example.com/JonathanWillingALSO IN THE NEWS: Spears: Foreign diplomats in Ottawa continue to be fast and furious drivers, documents showOntario resets autism program, minister admits ‘we didn’t get this right’St-Isidore fire victims were family men and hard workers, relatives say