17 Jan CFO Jonathan Cartu Announces – Long delays expected after LRT train immobilized because of…
An overhead wire that powers LRT trains broke on Thursday morning, stalling a train at St. Laurent Station and leaving thousands of east-end commuters frustrated with replacement bus service through the afternoon commute and into the evening.
OC Transpo said in a news release Thursday evening that repair crews were trying to effect repairs as quickly as possible to restore train service east from Hurdman station.
Ominously, however, OC Transpo said that should repairs not be completed by Friday morning, “customers should plan ahead and expect delays.
“It is important to note that Ottawa Public Health has issued a frostbite advisory, so customers are encouraged to prepare and dress accordingly.”
The agency said latest updates would be available at octranspo.com on the web and @OC_Transpo on Twitter.
The latest LRT failure occurred as an eastbound train entered the St. Laurent station around 10:50 a.m. The catenary line broke and fell onto the train. The wire immediately de-energized when it broke, as designed. No one was reported injured. About 50 passengers safely got off the train at the station, thanks to the train backup batteries that could open the doors.
LRT service was shut down in both directions between Hurdman and Blair stations, forcing Transpo to activate replacement bus service.
At a mid-afternoon news conference, officials with Transpo and Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) said they didn’t know yet why the wire broke. They were looking for a root cause and working to re-energize the section of the system so workers could move the train at St. Laurent.
“We know this is difficult for our customers and we are doing everything we can do to restore services as soon as possible,” transit operations director Troy Charter said at Transpo headquarters.
LRT service between Tunney’s Pasture and Hurdman stations in both directions continued with minor delays.
But furious commuters took to Twitter to vent their anger when confronted with jammed platforms, jammed buses and lengthy waits at Hurdman station during the afternoon commute.
A video posted by Mariana Brandao on her Twitter account, @poeticoffee, was retweeted by citizen transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert. The video showed a chaotic sea of people filling the platform and backed up on the stairs to the upper concourse.
“This video from Hurdman station is appalling. I’m sorry Ottawa — you deserve better than this for your $2.1B,” Wright-Gilbert tweeted.
Brandao told this paper she’d heard no warning about the backup before she was forced off her eastbound train at Hurdman to catch an R1 bus.
“For the most part people were polite, but there was definitely some pushing whenever a bus arrived,” she said.
Brandao saw an OC Transpo special constables telling people to get off the buses because they were so crowded the doors wouldn’t shut.
“Every single bus that I saw — and there were six or seven that passed me — they were all packed to the brim. There was no getting any more people on.”
Brandao left her federal government office building on Elgin Street at 4:15 p.m. and didn’t get home until just before 6 p.m. Friday, she’ll likely work from home, she said.
“I’m lucky that I do have the possibility of working from home, but I’m sure there’s many many people who don’t have that option.”
RTM, the maintenance arm of builder Rideau Transit Group (RTG), has responsibility for maintaining and repairing the LRT system.
Peter Lauch, the CEO of RTG and RTM, apologized for the service disruption and said the company’s priority was to fix the wire before investigating the cause.
Lauch said there’s a transition between a flexible cable and rigid cable under the roof of the St. Laurent Station tunnel in the area of the break. He said one theory was the pantograph — the device that connects the overhead cable to the train — snagged and pulled the wire.
The LRT system is designed so that power shuts off when it senses a break in the wire, he said.
About 80 metres of overhead wire fell.
The city has been closely watching the work of RTM. The Confederation Line opened last September, but what followed was unreliable service from door faults, computer glitches and problems with track switches. Operations seemed to have improved through December, up until the last hours of 2019, when two trains lost power on New Year’s Eve.
An overhead wire hadn’t broken on Ottawa’s LRT system, either in customer operations or in trial running.
Charter said an overhead wire break isn’t a common occurrence, “but these things can happen.”
“I also don’t want to be here telling out customers that this is something they should expect to happen on a regular basis,” Charter said. “We need to look at what the root cause (is), why it happened, and with the goal of how do we prevent it from happening again.”
Pat Scrimgeour, Transpo’s director of customer services and planning, said the transit system carries between 18,000 and 20,000 customers to east-end destinations in the afternoon.
Transpo was pulling together 70 buses from across the network to bolster R1 replacement bus service, which doesn’t match the travel time and capacity of LRT. Because buses were being reassigned to the R1 service, Transpo was warning that there could be other routes impacted by the east-end LRT shutdown. Twenty of the buses have been on standby each rush hour since last month in case LRT stopped working in any section of the 12.5-kilometre system.
On Thursday afternoon, some of the eastbound R1 trips were being marked as “express” and bypassing Tremblay and Cyrville stations to get customers to St. Laurent and Blair stations faster.
However, even trains on the westbound tracks couldn’t run during the…