Alstom Ottawa LRT Deal Signed Last Week


light rail

The city just lost some excuses.

Michelle Stein of Alstom got back to me promptly to answer questions about the $180-million 30-year deal signed with Rideau Transit Maintenance General Partnership for upkeep of Ottawa’s $2.1-billion light-rail project.

The city didn’t announce publicly that the light-rail project had just signed a $180-million deal. City officials can’t say it is re-announced money because the contract, according to Stein, was inked last week. Publicly traded companies have a legal obligation to make their dealings available to investors and shareholders.

So companies such as Alstom must reveal contracts such as this huge one to do maintenance for Ottawa’s LRT. Apparently democracies have no such obligation.

As well the city lost the excuse that it is most efficient to have the company that built the rolling stock for the line do the maintenance for the line. Alstom is building the rolling stock for Ottawa’s LRT at present.

Stein said that sometimes her company does maintenance on other firm’s rolling stock and vice versa. Often Alstom does it’s own maintenance, other times it does not.

So it is common for maintenance contracts to be bid upon, Stein said.

In addition, the city can’t say it didn’t know the announcement was coming from Alstom. Mayor Jim Watson was quoted in the release.

“Ottawa is investing in green and efficient public transportation. As part of this effort, we
are making sure that our modern trains continue to give 100 per cent performance over their
lifetime, representing an attractive means of transportation for our residents and

The tone of the statement is very similar to the Watson quotes that go into almost all self-congratulatory good-news press releases from the City of Ottawa.

Were your agent a cynical man, he might say that the city didn’t want people to know it had signed such a deal with Alstom. The reasons for such a strategy at this point are unknown. News of the deal was released by a company and not sent to the usual media sources that city press releases are distributed. Furthermore the Alstom document, on a private newswire, was sent out just before the Labour Day weekend when the public and the media have other things on their minds … like vacationing.

This is a very novel way for the city to inform the public. We wonder what the municipality has planned for the Thanksgiving long weekend.

The one thing Stein didn’t know was if the enormous Alstom contract was sole-sourced.

To read the Alstom release, click here.

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12 thoughts on “Alstom Ottawa LRT Deal Signed Last Week

  1. Sole-sourcing is an interesting issue but remember this contract is between the Rideau Transit Group and Alstom. It is not between the city and Alstom. The $2.1-billion deal includes RTG being responsible for “DESIGN, BUILD, FINANCE AND MAINTENANCE”.

    So the RTG is responsible for the maintenance of the rolling stock and the tracks and the Alstom company will be doing that maintenance for the next 30 years.

    So I would guess that deals within the deal aren’t going to be reported by the city.

    It is good to keep asking questions but some of the questions will need to be asked to RTG. RTG is a corporate partnership, not an elected official.

    1. Chaz:

      That was why I was careful not to say the city but the project.

      That said, Mayor Jim Watson’s quote is all over the Alstom release, making it a city matter. The city is involved in the sense that our tax money is paying the bill and we want best value for money.

      We would want RTG to make the best use of the money. My opinion is that there should have been a bidding process.

      With the city involved in many parts of the LRT project, RTG actions are an issue of public importance.



    1. Larry:

      Your comment has a big hole in it: Why?

      And while we’re on the topic of why, perhaps you can explain why the city went with a light-rail line that costs three times the amount of the Chiarelli plan but travels only one-third the length. You know, $2.1 billion versus $700 million.

      I guess as Larry O’Brien said his only election campaign, the Chiarelli plan was too expensive.

      And ps … Alstom didn’t seem to have a problem on bidding for maintenance projects.

      Guess you know more about light rail than Alstom.

      Always a pleasure


      1. If we were talking about the maintenance contract for the trains (which was sole sourced to Alstom), then maybe Sludgehammer would be right in giving that contract automatically to Alstom because these LRT trains have been specially modified for Ottawa’s winter challenges, and it is probably best to have that train manufacturer responsible for their specific machines, i.e. one would expect Alstom to know them best and respond quickly to any mechanical problems or need for parts. And I am guessing that 30 years will cover the lifespan of these trains.

        However, the LRT system maintenance is a common feature of urban LRT systems globally, and therefore its contact could have been fulfilled by many rail maintenance companies, i.e. there was no need to sole-source it. And yet, maybe the fact that this is another sole-sourced contract does not matter for Phase 1 of the Confederation line since it is apparently maintaining the $2.1-billion contract price structure.

        The real danger is in regard to the expansion of the Confederation line for Phase 2 and beyond, as sole sourcing can become the norm. Indeed, the contract to design Phase 2 has already been sole sourced to RTG for $60-million.

        The city is currently building Transitway 2.0 with little regard as to whether it is a sustainable model, or with little regard to its cost. As long as the city gets matching fed and provincial dollars, as well as gas-tax money, then there seems to be no motivation for city council (or city staff) to rethink this suburban rapid transit design.

        Mayor Jim Watson — contrary to his campaign promise — seems not to care about sole sourcing. Rather, Watson is only focused on getting as much of his new Transitway built as quickly as possible. That is Watson’s election slogan; his ticket to re-election. So, if sole-sourcing speeds up that process, then that is just fine with Watson. Taxpayers, and public transit users, be damned.

          1. SludgeHammer,

            Thanks for that correction. Yes, it was Capital Transit Partners and not Rideau Transit Group. But the argument against having this work (design/plan for phase 2) sole-sourced remains valid.

            1. Reading the Bulldog can teach us things.

              I didn’t know Capital Transit Partners existed, I had only heard of the RTG.

              It is indeed a good day when one learns something new.


        1. Sheridan,

          You said.

          “I am guessing that 30 years will cover the lifespan of these trains.”

          There is a section under Maintenance Term that says: During the maintenance and service term, RTG bears the risk that the service quality standards are maintained, including on-time performance and general maintenance.
          RTG is also responsible for ENSURING that, at the end of the maintenance and service term, the vehicles and fixed infrastructure assets are handed back to the City in good condition.

          I wonder who will determine what “good condition” actually means in 2048?

          I drove and maintained and treated with kid gloves my 1995 Seville (loved that car) but it did die several years back.


          1. Chaz,

            A 1995 Seville, eh? However, Mayor Jim Watson has stated many times that this new LRT system is a “Chevy,” and not a “Cadillac.” So how good will that be?

            Of course, comparing cars to trains is apples and oranges. For example, the train will be grade separated and electric powered. The trains won’t have to deal with potholes, salted roads, etc. Even the station platforms are going to have in-floor heating.

            It is probably more accurate to label Watson’s purchase a “Buick,” rather than a “Chevy.”


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