LRT at 'full service' with 13 trains? Time for a reality check

For the last two weeks, daily updates on the Confederation Line from Ottawa's general manager for transportation have been mostly positive.

"There are 13 vehicles on the line. Full service," says one such update from John Manconi, sent Thursday. "[Rideau Transit Group] is providing 13 trains for this afternoon service. Full service," said another earlier in the week.

While the city official refers to 13 trains as "full service" on the new light rail system, it wasn't supposed to be that way. 

As CBC previously reported, the city paid for 17 two-car trains, and planned to run 15 during morning and afternoon rush hours, with two trains as back-ups.

More trains would have meant a shorter wait time for passengers — about three minutes and change compared to the current four minutes when 13 trains are running. On Twitter, riders have noticed the shortfall.

Replying to tweets by Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley on Thursday about 13 trains being "full service," critics chimed in.

One user replied "Still missing 4 trains!" Another user wrote, "Can you verify definition of full service for #Ottlrt?"

More spares needed than city thought

Troy Charter, director of transit operations, told CBC last week that the LRT's contractor, Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM), realized maintenance needs on the new trains require more back-up trains than originally thought.

"We had a very, very low spare ratio when you're putting 15 vehicles in service and you only have 17," Charter said.

Jean Delisle/CBC

RTM has been busy ensuring the top of trains stay clear to prevent sparks and that the train wheels stay round, issues that led to trains getting pulled out of service earlier this winter. 

Charter said trains meant to be a part of Confederation Line Stage 2 are currently being tested to increase the number of trains running during rush hour to 14 or 15 while also ensuring there are enough on standby.  

"We're testing and commissioning those additional trains and when one of those is available we'll put that in service," he said.

Still, Charter said the existing fleet is enough, for now. "The 13 trains meets our current ridership," he said.