Massive Toronto subway project gets public inquiry into recent delays

Pt 3 of Ontario transit review will also take a look at other big projects that have faced similar difficulties

Ontario’s transportation minister has announced a public inquiry into a recent series of train cancellations and construction delays at a Metrolinx project in Toronto.

Both the Toronto and Ottawa governments have suffered setbacks in recent years over public transit projects, as demand for public transit services continues to surge.

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In Ontario, the first phase of the Sheppard subway in Toronto was planned to end at the Lawrence station in 2011 but the entire $7.8bn project has been plagued by technical problems. The second phase was designed to connect Sheppard to Toronto’s airport. The extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway to Sheppard’s north-west, and the extension to Pearson International airport in Toronto’s west, were meant to be completed by late 2017, but these are still in the process of being constructed.

The report by the director of Queen’s Park’s commission on the cancellation of gas plants will also examine other big transit projects that have faced similar difficulties, transport minister Marc Garneau said.

Earlier this month, the chief executive of Toronto’s transit agency admitted that his staff failed to follow the correct plan when they aborted a planned rail shutdown for the planned widening of a rail track during the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey game last April.

“The derailment of rail at Spadina station in Toronto in April 2018 showed us that ‘quality’ is not always the most important thing,” he said.

Ontario’s Auditor General of Ontario recently called on Metrolinx to establish the independent public inquiry.

Garneau said the inquiry into the Toronto Metrolinx projects would be independent from Metrolinx.

The review will also take a look at how the financial incentives Metrolinx was offering cities to speed up building work are working, he said.

For governments looking for alternative financing models, it’s important to have better information to guide planning and budgeting. Ontario’s public inquiry will help governments shape their financing approaches more effectively, Garneau said.

In Ottawa, the Confederation Line’s five stations, with capacity for more than 70,000 passengers, are fully operational, but the file is being monitored closely.

“It’s certainly a situation that we’re watching closely,” said Garneau.

The inquiry will be headed by Chris Murray, an Ontario transportation ministry general manager for innovation.

The province announced last month it was going to fund a “transit action plan” with a total of $70bn over 10 years, as it looked to shore up funding to maintain existing service levels and build new ones.

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