OC Transpo Line 1 Service Update (2023/07/24)

Thank you for joining us today. I want to start by offering my deepest condolences to the family of the woman who died in a tragic accident involving an OC Transpo bus last week. Ginny and I, and all of us here today, and the entire community, are keeping you in our thoughts.

I want to speak directly to OC Transpo customers and Ottawa residents today. This latest shutdown of the light rail service is incredibly frustrating and unacceptable. I share your disappointment. I understand your lack of faith in the system. As passengers, taxpayers, and residents, we are all enormously frustrated with a system that has not worked as it should have. I assure you that I and everyone at the city and at OC Transpo will not rest until you have a safe, reliable light rail system, the system that you expect, the system that all of us paid for.

When I ran for mayor last year, one of my greatest concerns was the state of our light rail system. As a radio host and columnist, I had raised a lot of concerns about the decisions around light rail. And as a resident I was incredibly frustrated with what had been happening. I ran because I wanted to make public transit safer and more reliable for the people of Ottawa. Shortly after I was elected, the results of the public inquiry were released, and I supported all of them.

For the past week, I have been speaking regularly with city and transit leadership, with city councillors, and with the media. A number of important steps have been taken that we will share with you today. After a lot of analysis and investigation, we are now moving forward based on a number of important principles.

First, there is nothing more important than the safety of our passengers and residents. That's why whenever there is an issue with the system, we must act with an abundance of caution. And we won't start running the trains again until we can be sure that they are safe.

Second, we must be transparent and share as much information as possible. Throughout the past week there have been a number of updates and briefings for councillors, much more communication than there has been in the past. Also, I and others here today have done a number of media interviews to answer questions and share what we know with the public. In addition, starting tomorrow, we will hold daily media briefings so that we are keeping the public informed and that we are able to answer as many of your questions as possible.

Third, we are continuing to implement and follow the recommendations of the public inquiry last year. That includes working collaboratively and effectively with our partners in the light rail system. I'm encouraged to see the level of cooperation that has been happening during the past week, and that has led us to a couple of important announcements that we will be making today.

Fourth, whenever there is an issue, we must work as quickly as possible to fix it and restore service as soon as possible, as long as we are able to do so safely. Renee will have more to say about our plans to resume service, possibly as early as next Monday, in a few minutes.

This will not all happen overnight. But I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a new period during which the recommendations of the inquiry are being followed, there is a high level of collaboration between OC Transpo and the consortium, there’s a high level of communication with the public, and we are working toward not just temporary fixes but permanent solutions that will deliver the light rail service Ottawa residents expect and deserve.

But finally, and most importantly, it is not good enough to simply repair the problems. We must find the permanent solutions, so these events stop happening and we have the safe, reliable service we paid for. So I'm encouraged that OC Transpo, the consortium, and Alstom, the company that designed the trains, have agreed to move forward with a redesign of the axle system that has been at the centre of many of the issues we've experienced. That alone will not solve all of our issues, but I and the team at OC Transpo are hopeful that this redesign will be a giant step forward. At last we are working on the root problem and not just the issues that arise from it.

And, I want to thank Renee and the team at OC Transpo, all of the people who work for our public transit system. I know they want to deliver the best service possible to their neighbours, the residents of Ottawa. I know this is difficult for them as well. I thank them for their hard work.

Again, I want to thank the residents of Ottawa. And I want to emphasize that I don't expect residents to have confidence in the system until not only is service restored, but the chronic and persistent issues we've experienced have been permanently addressed. But I am hopeful and encouraged by the fact that we are finally starting to do that. These are the actions we need to take in order to finally have the system Ottawa residents deserve.

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