Metrolinx Transit Program

CAN - Metrolinx.jpg
CAN - Metrolinx.jpg


  • Metrolinx is a Crown agency of the Government of Ontario responsible for public transport in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
  • The Metrolinx Transit Program is a multi-billion-dollar endeavour, with over CAD0 billion committed to date. The program was initiated in 2008 with a visionary multimodal, long-range, 25-year regional transportation plan called The Big Move. The program was further articulated in May 2013 with the announcement of a comprehensive investment strategy and became the largest public investment in Canadian history to date. The Metrolinx Transit Program is ongoing, with the implementation of a complex web of deliverables including light rail segments, subways, and community stations.
  • Infrastructure Ontario (IO) is the procurement agency responsible for all major infrastructure projects in the province of Ontario, including the procurement of the Metrolinx Transit Program.
  • Due to its size and complexity, the Metrolinx Transit Program has been at the centre of discussions on the Canadian PPP model that included the model’s merits, shortcomings, future, and alternatives. The program has primarily adopted a design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM)


  • The strong procurement track-record of IO, the size of the program, and the positive response of the capital markets attracted national and international competition. The supply chain margins and pricing rapidly became minimal while the public authority maintained low budget estimates.
  • In parallel, larger and more complex procurement packages were presented to the market with increased construction risks passed down to the design-built contractor, without necessarily increasing the project preparation.
  • The rigidity of the PPP model based on lump sum turnkey contracts exhausted the limited resources in place which were not sized for the level of complexity associated with the contracted packages. Growing requests for scope variations and claims caused Metrolinx and IO to rethink the delivery schedule and contractual approach. Consultations were initiated in spring 2019 while pursuing the program.


  • The more pressing challenges were discussed through these market consultations and various solutions were explored, including:
    • Improving the project preparation. Metrolinx indicated it would be prepared to conduct early enabling works, ahead of phased implementation, to reduce interfaces and simplify the scope of work.
    • Revisiting construction risk allocations. Metrolinx indicated it was prepared to keep or limit responsibility for activities the design-built contractor could not control easily, such as municipal permitting, third-party railroad interfaces, the relocation of public utility services and site decontamination.
    • Managing size and complexity better. Existing packages would be reduced and some components procured separately. Sizeable items of the GO Expansion Projects have been descoped in this
    • Resizing downstream packages or procuring them under simpler models, including design-build-finance (DBF), design-build-finance-maintain (DBFM) or design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM), depending on the circumstances.
    • Gaining support from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB). CIB indicated it would support the program by providing a lower rate / higher risk facility to allow for a better protection and rating of the senior debt in instances warranting this approach.
    • Testing the Alliance model, starting with a major transit hub, the Union Station.


  • 2008 – Metrolinx Transit Program called The Big Move initiated
  • May 2013 – The Big Move Investment Strategy released
  • November 2015 Eglinton Crosstown LRT - CAD25 billion DBFM contract awarded
  • May 2018 Finch West LRT – CAD5 billion DBFM contract closed
  • October 2019 Hurontario LRT – CAD6 billion DBFOM contract awarded
  • Spring of 2019 – Consultations on contractual arrangements initiated in the context of procuring the GO Expansion projects
  • November 2020 – Successful Proponent selected for the Union Station Enhancement Project Alliance Agreement.

Results / impact

  • Reviewing and revising the procurement and risk allocation of the Metrolinx Transit Program has ensured market interest in the programs contracts, retaining competitive tension.
  • The Alliance model is being used on Union Station Enhancement, while the GO Rail Expansion - Lakeshore West Corridor Infrastructure Improvements Project is using a DBF contract.

Key lessons learnt

Note: The program is ongoing and improved delivery solutions and models are currently being explored.

  • Large and complex projects require adequate budgets, financing facilities, and contingencies allowing for the financial resolution of unforeseen difficulties.
  • Large and complex projects require sufficient human resources and expertise at client and project company (SPV) levels.
  • Simplified scoping and a more balanced allocation of risks together with advanced and collaborative scope variation and dispute resolution mechanisms must be considered in structuring turnkey lump sum contracts.
  • Different project situations may lead to adopting different delivery models. Hybrid models may be considered.
Last Updated: 24 November 2021