Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says it's currently "assessing reports" of cracked wheels on some of Ottawa's new LRT trains, and will determine whether further investigation is required.
The first cracked wheel was discovered Thursday during maintenance work, followed by two more discovered during follow-up inspections. The problem has now prompted mandatory daily inspections, reducing the available Confederation Line fleet to just seven trains at any one time, less than half the promised complement. That, in turn, has severely reduced the frequency of service to about eight minutes, even during peak hours.
It's not clear what, if any, safety risk the problem poses, but it's enough for the independent investigative agency to at least consider getting involved.
"If we uncover serious safety deficiencies, we will inform industry and the regulator as quickly as possible," the TSB said.
I think that we just have to be feeling extremely lucky that our trains are not packed, that this isn't a regular summer where people are on the trains and tourists are here. - Coun. Carol Anne Meehan
City of Ottawa transportation chief safety officer Brandon Richards said in an email to CBC on Tuesday the city was obliged to report the wheel issues to the TSB.
"At this time, there have been initial discussions with TSB, and we will continue to work together throughout the investigation," wrote Richards in an email.
Coun. Carol Anne Meehan said she's grateful the TSB is at least considering an investigation.
"At least somebody's taking the safety of passengers really seriously," she said Monday.
The cracked wheels are the latest in a string of ongoing problems plaguing the Confederation Line since its launch last fall.
Meehan said given the apparent severity of the problem, it's fortunate ridership is down due to the pandemic.
"At this point, I think that we just have to be feeling extremely lucky that our trains are not packed, that this isn't a regular summer where people are on the trains and tourists are here," said Meehan.
"We have purchased a lemon, that is clear," she said. "And I don't have any faith that the people who are trying to fix the trains know what they're doing."
Sarah Wright-Gilbert, a citizen transit commissioner, echoed Meehan's concerns.
"I don't think [Rideau Transit Maintenance] is actually equipped to deal with the maintenance and management of this rail line, and I believe that the contract absolutely needs to be terminated with them," she said.
Wright-Gilbert is demanding to know how steel wheels can crack after less than a year of use, and has asked the city for a comprehensive list off all the problems the LRT is facing, along with a date for when they're expected to be fixed.
"We need to have some answers in terms of all of the outstanding issues ... of which there are many, and there seems to be new ones popping up on a weekly basis," she said.
The city says Rideau Transit Management and the train maker Alstom are working to determine what caused the wheels to crack.