OC Transpo doesn't know when LRT service will be back to normal

OC Transpo says it does not know when full LRT service will be restored after a broken overhead power line halted service Thursday.

East-end LRT riders had to rely on bus service through the afternoon rush hour after a wire broke around 10:50 a.m. and fell onto a train as it entered St-Laurent station, said Troy Charter, the City of Ottawa's director of transit operations, at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Shortly afterward, OC Transpo announced that buses would be replacing LRT service between Hurdman and Blair stations.

Charter said the system "functioned as intended" when the incident occured and that power was immediately cut to both the overhead wires and the train.

While Rideau Transit Maintenance was working to restore service as quickly as possible, there was a chance that wouldn't happen until Friday, Charter said.

No word on when service will resume

In an update sent shortly after 9:30 p.m., OC Transpo's general manager, John Manconi, said the city does not have an estimate on when service will be restored.

"Repairs to fix the power line system at St-Laurent station are progressing," said Manconi. "[Rideau Transit Group] is reporting that repair work is proceeding well and that they have not encountered any unforeseen issues."

Manconi said crews were nearly finished repairing damaged equipment and were in the process of assembling a replacement wire system. After that, they would need to install the new wire system and re-energize it.

Finally, he said crews would "conduct numerous tests to confirm the replacement is fully functional."

Manconi said the city is currently developing plans for the Friday morning commute in an effort to "provide the best service possible" depending on the state of readiness.

Andrew Lee/CBC

Approximately 50 people were riding the train when it came to a halt, and they were only "immobilized for a few minutes," the city said in an email to CBC Ottawa.

All passengers were able to disembark safely with the doors opening under battery power, said Rideau Transit Group chief executive officer Peter Lauch.

It still wasn't clear why the wire broke, Lauch said. Nothing similar happened during the testing of the line prior to its launch last fall, he added.

Manconi said in a statement shortly before 5:30 p.m. that the train had finally been moved out of St-Laurent station and returned to the maintenance facility.

Consider working from home

Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo's director of customer systems and planning, said while roughly 70 buses were being called into action to replace the LRT line, people should prepare for longer waits and travel times.

That was readily apparent during afternoon rush hour at Hurdman station, where hundreds of people lined up to wait for those replacement buses.

Scrimgeour said bus riders elsewhere in the city could also end up experiencing delays.

David Richard/Radio-Canada

"In the event that the service disruption continues into Friday morning, customers may want to consider working from home or making alternative travel arrangements," Scrimgeour said.

LRT train operator Ken Woods described the day's events as "a punch in the face" and apologized to riders in a tweet.

Another electrical problem that halted service on New Year's Eve was caused by a buildup of dirt or grit on the roofs of two trains, according to the head of Ottawa's transit commission.

OC Transpo has tweeted about six power issues on the Confederation Line since Christmas.

"Whenever you're dealing with electrical components like this ... disruptions can occur," Charter said. "But our goal is to minimize those, and take the steps to prevent them from occurring."