SNC-Lavalin raises the Crosstown LRT: deadline delayed to March

Metrolinx has agreed to a new deadline to complete the subway line it originally planned to begin service on this month, the agency announced Monday.

In a statement, the regional transit authority said it has yet to set a new completion date for its Crosstown LRT line, the Toronto-area’s first major transit project in a quarter century.

“We continue to work on schedule with our project partners to successfully meet the existing Jan. 1, 2019 completion date. This is a significant milestone for the largest public-private infrastructure project in Canadian history, and we are committed to delivering the project on time and on budget,” Stephen Johnston, Metrolinx’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The switch comes after the agency got a positive report from a credit rating agency over the status of the project. Fitch Ratings reported last week that Metrolinx’s ability to complete the project “as planned” is “probable,” based on preliminary findings from the agency’s January 2019 feasibility study.

Originally scheduled to open on Monday, the regional transit authority said in September that it was moving up the opening to a date to be determined after it awarded a contract to a Canadian consortium led by SNC-Lavalin.

Canada’s largest engineering company has won a roughly $1.2bn contract to build the first phase of the 30km, one-tube subway.

Metrolinx, which is responsible for building the subway and operating it, is buying the track and tunnels from Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd in a contract worth $4.77bn that was awarded in December 2017.

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Toronto city council agreed in January that it would buy the track, tunnels and entire 31-mile subway line from the federal government as part of its 2018 budget.

City council hopes that the deal will generate income that could cover up to $250m in annual interest payments on the cost of the project for up to 40 years.

SNC-Lavalin first bid on the contract to build the subway line in 2015 after Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne asked the Canadian arm of the SNC-Lavalin for more information about the project.

Analyst Firas Maksad with Bloomberg Intelligence said the delay was not a surprise after consulting with engineers and virologists who had studied the potential for the material used on the subway’s track.

“The tunnel platform will be run by bacteria, and any kind of bacteria that may go on to the system will settle on that tunnel and will take 10 years or so to fully die off,” Maksad said.

“This is expected to further delay the timetable, depending on the viral or bacterial strain that we are dealing with,” he said.

Three other companies are involved in the project: Canadian firm Kiewit-Flint Joint Venture, another Canadian engineering firm called Kier Construction and Calgary-based Shawnigan Lake and Renfrew companies.

A timeline for completion was not immediately available.

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