The opening dates for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT are expected to be released by the end of summer after much uncertainty surfaced earlier this year as a result of significant delays.
That was the message from Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster during an unrelated press conference following an announcement by Associate Minister of Transportation Stan Cho about TTC riders now being able to use credit or debit cards to pay fares, including cards on a smartphone or smartwatch.
The LRT project began 12 years ago and construction is now 98 per cent complete, Cho said before inviting Verster to address the media.
“There has been a huge amount of work to figure out what a credible schedule looks like and as we get closer to the end of the summer, we will be announcing what we think is the range of dates when we’ll have in service,” he said. “The reason why we are talking about a range of dates and the reason why a firm date for a complex transit project like this is not really possible at this point in time is we’re in the testing and commissioning phase.
“This is when technical, complex issues are found, fixed, rectified and it’s not really clear before you’ve found the problem how long it’s going to take to rectify it. But there’s huge progress and I am keen to give you by the end of the summer a clear indication of when that line five will be in service.”
In April, the Daily Commercial News reported Verster’s concerns about consortium Crosslinx Transit Solutions’ (CTS) ability to deliver the project in a timely and complete manner.
“We are using every lever and every remedy in our P3 contracts to get our contractor CTS to deliver on time, but the key thing is that the quality must be right, and a safe transit system must be delivered,” said Verster at the time. “Metrolinx is not a construction company, but we have multibillion-dollar private sector companies that have the resources, the subcontractors, the people and the schedule and the means to deliver this.”
He provided a few examples of his concerns.
“We have clearly, for a very long time, challenged the forecast from CTS to complete in the second half of 2023,” said Verster. “Practical examples are the following: there are 260 non-conformances, quality issues that must be rectified and please understand those quality issues get rectified at CTS’s expense. Similarly, the cost of delay of the project is at CTS’s expense. We’re withholding substantial payments against the completion of the project.”
Now, Verster said, there has been “excellent progress” made on many aspects of the project.
“One of the things I was very concerned about was the condition of the track that had been laid and the fact that some of the trains weren’t running as smoothly and comfortably and we had a derailment because of the track condition,” Verster explained. “That’s been remedied to our satisfaction. There are some long-term fixes that must come in, a whole host of things have been done on scope, systems and the like which means that we had a really key milestone event…when (we) signed off on the train trainer to start. These are the trainers that will train the operating crews which is on the critical path to get us to completion.”
Cho said safety is the top concern.
“The priority now is about making sure this is safe to operate,” he noted. “You don’t want to rush and open a line. You see what happened in Ottawa with the derailment the light rail there…People have suffered enough waiting for this crosstown to be completed. We’re going to open when it’s safe to do so.”