City aiming to restore full service to LRT Friday

·3 min read
An Ottawa light rail train pulls into uOttawa station July 24, 2022. The city gave an update on the latest LRT issues on Tuesday afternoon. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)
An Ottawa light rail train pulls into uOttawa station July 24, 2022. The city gave an update on the latest LRT issues on Tuesday afternoon. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)

UPDATE | On Wednesday, transportation general manager Renée Amilcar said trains will run along the entire length of the Confederation Line after 10:30 p.m., until the work on the catenary system — which must be done during daylight — is complete.

On Thursday, trains will run on the east and west ends of the line, she added, with replacement buses only operating between Rideau and St-Laurent stations.

City of Ottawa transportation officials say they're aiming to restore full service to OC Transpo's light-rail system by Friday.

The City of Ottawa held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to address questions and concerns about OC Transpo's most recent light-rail failures, after a majority of trains were taken off the rails due to "technical issues."

The city's general manager of transportation Renée Amilcar apologized to customers and is reassuring residents that service will be restored "as soon as it is safe to do so."

The recent issues began Saturday when OC Transpo pulled several trains because of concerns about wheel problems after a driver reported unusual vibrations. On Sunday, a lightning strike brought down 900 metres of overhead catenary wires, used to power the trains, damaging parts of one train and parts of the track.

"It is unfortunate that these two events happened at the same time. I want to stress to our customers that these two incidents are not related," said Amilcar, during the city update Tuesday.

"I'm sorry for the inconvenience and the situation."

As of Wednesday morning service was restored between Tunney's Pasture and Rideau stations in the west, and between Blair and St-Laurent stations in the east.

The repairs to damaged overhead wires, however, could "take several days," said Amilcar.

Most of Ottawa's east-west LRT line — from Tunney's Pasture station to St-Laurent station — had been replaced with bus service to start the workweek. R1 bus service will continue until the repairs are complete, said Amilcar.

Mario Guerra, the CEO of Rideau Transit Maintenance, said his best estimate to get full service back up and running is Friday.

"That's what we're shooting for at this point but as we get into the repairs, if things come up, that can be compromised," Guerra said. "If things go well, it could be ahead of that [schedule]."

Lightning 'direct hit' to important wire

Guerra gave an update to both issues during Tuesday's conference.

Regarding the wheel-hub incident, Guerra said when investigators removed the axle of the train with vibrations, it found the hub was cracked. As a result, 20 light-rail train cars with more than 175,000 kilometres on them were pulled to replace axle hubs as a precautionary measure.

I've been in this business 40 years and I've never experienced a direct hit like this. - Mario Guerra, CEO Rideau Transit Maintenance

The faulty hub is being inspected by the Transportation Safety Board, he said.

Two cars have been processed and cleared for return to service. He expects to release two vehicles per day.

For the second incident, Guerra said preliminary video footage shows lightning hit a "messenger wire," causing it to break, putting a lot of stress on the overhead catenary system. That caused 900 metres of cable to come down.

Christian Milette/Radio-Canada
Christian Milette/Radio-Canada

"I've been in this business 40 years and I've never experienced a direct hit like this with lightning," said Guerra. He said though there are lightning arresters in place — which protect the insulation and conductors from lightning — he's looking to engineers to find out "if they're enough."

"When there's a lightning strike directly hitting that messenger wire, I don't think there's much that we could have done to prevent the situation."

On Tuesday night, likely past 9 p.m., Guerra said crews will work to retrieve the train that is still sitting by the uOttawa station. They will assess the damage to sections of Track 2, and are looking at how best to repair those.

Special equipment to re-string the overhead wires was delivered to Ottawa on Monday, and installation is underway after workers cleared the area of debris, said Amilcar.

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