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Questions swirl over whether a race to finish phase one of LRT is affecting safety

Tunnelling under downtown Ottawa for the Confederation Line has been completed. The mayor announced the milestone by tweeting this photo, January 19, 2017. (Courtesy: Mayor Jim Watson/City of Ottawa)

OTTAWA — As stories of overflowing toilets and injured workers make headlines, there are questions about worker safety and conditions underground as the deadline looms for phase one of LRT.

But the head of OC Transpo is pointing to the construction company’s safety record and requirement to follow labour laws.

OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi says safety is a top priority of the Rideau Transit Group.

He says a worker who claimed he was injured after tripping over a piece of rebar in a tunnel never told his bosses, and that a story about an ambulance being turned away was inaccurate.

“Our emergency responders met with RTG, went through exactly what that incidence was. The injured person’s friend called away and said ‘we’re fine, we don’t need an ambulance’,” said Manconi.

He acknowledged the tunnels are busy, crowded, and working on the LRT is difficult work, but that RTG has a good safety record.

However, he said he and the head of RTG have been working with the local labour council on a monthly basis to address other concerns.

As for the toilet issue, Manconi said that was taken care of before it made it into the news.

Phase one was originally set to open in Spring 2018, but Transit Commission Chair Stephen Blais has backed away from providing a specific date.

Manconi also added the line will only open after rigorous train and track tests and once they ensure the system is reliable.

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