TORONTO — Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says in her annual report that the provincial government’s commitment to fund the Hamilton LRT project, reiterated over several years until its cancellation of the project last December, was based on outdated estimates and that the true cost was much higher than the initial $1-billion commitment.
The Auditor General’s 2020 Annual Report, released Dec. 7, said the original $1-billion funding commitment made in 2015 by the government of the day covered only the construction cost and was based on a 2012 Environmental Project Report commissioned by the City of Hamilton. The audit found that the $5.5-billion cost estimate announced prior to the cancellation of the Hamilton LRT in December 2019 was a more reasonable estimate.
“The Ministry of Transportation was aware as early as December 2016 that the estimated costs for the project were significantly higher than its public commitment of $1 billion in 2015, which was only for construction costs. The increases were not made public or communicated to the City of Hamilton until fall of 2019,” Lysyk said in a release.
The section of the auditor’s report devoted to Metrolinx found that Metrolinx kept GO trains on schedule more than 90 per cent of the time for arrival at the final station within five minutes of the scheduled arrival time during the past five years. Its on-time performance for trains is comparable to that of other transit agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The audit also found that arrival time for buses for the past five years was consistently at 95 per cent for arrival at the final stop within 15 minutes of the scheduled time.
The audit found that any delays and cancellations were mainly related to third-party services.
However, the audit also found that after 14 years, the PRESTO automatic fare system still has not been fully adopted across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Riders still do not have two key elements of PRESTO: the convenience of integrated fares across the GTHA and the ability to use their own debit or credit cards to tap and pay.
The audit also found that Metrolinx relies heavily on external contractors for IT operations and services, and has paid approximately $157 million in salaries and benefits to contract staff in the last five years, more than twice the salaries and benefits paid for Metrolinx full-time staff.