Police investigating after attempted cable theft shuts down O-Train

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Police investigating after attempted cable theft shuts down O-Train

Ottawa police are investigating after an attempted theft of valuable cables caused significant damage to the O-Train's signalling system, bringing the train network to a halt Thursday.

OC Transpo announced around 6 a.m. Thursday that the Trillium Line had been shut down, and 12 hours later the north-south passenger train was still not running.

The damage to the pole-mounted cables along the track happened at the tail end of Wednesday night's train service, and "cable theft" seems to have been the motivation, said Michael Morgan, the city's director of rail operations.

"There's some value to these cables," Morgan told CBC News. "Somebody illegally accessed the right of way, they cut some cables, and they appeared to be making efforts to take the cables away."

"They were taking a chance by cutting those cables. They were going into an active rail corridor with active train movement," he added.

Route 107 replacing service

Passengers are able to take bus route 107 in lieu of the O-Train, which travels parallel to the train line with stops between Bayview and South Keys stations, according to a statement on OC Transpo's website.

The signal system allows OC Transpo to "remotely control" the switches and set stop and go signals, and when the system is damaged train operators have to manoeuvre the trains manually, Morgan said.

"[It's] not the preferred way of doing it. And we certainly can't run service that way," he said.

The system's safety features were activated as soon as the damage occurred, with all the signals defaulting to stop, Morgan said. 

Morgan said it was hard to say whether service would be restored in time for Friday morning rush hour, but OC Transpo will continue to provide updates on social media.

He said there were only three passengers aboard one of the trains when the cables were damaged. 

Both the Ottawa Police Service and Transport Canada have been notified, Morgan said. For security reasons, the city is not divulging where on the line the damage occurred.

Shortly after 6 p.m., OC Transpo confirmed that the train network would remain offline for the rest of the day.