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More LRT problems as train derails; city doesn't think incident related to Aug. 8 derailment

Ottawa Citizen logo Ottawa Citizen 2021-09-20 Andrew Duffy
a group of people riding skis on top of a car: Emergency officials were on the scene of an apparent LRT derailment near Tremblay station, Sunday, September 19, 2021. © Provided by Ottawa Citizen Emergency officials were on the scene of an apparent LRT derailment near Tremblay station, Sunday, September 19, 2021.
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Ottawa’s problem-plagued LRT suffered more trouble Sunday when a westbound train on the Confederation Line derailed west of Tremblay station.

No one was injured in the 12:27 p.m. accident, near Riverside Drive, but one train car was significantly damaged after apparently colliding with a signal box next to the tracks. Several panels on one train car were ripped from the vehicle, a window was shattered and the signal box was bent and broken.

“A couple of bumps, and it came to a stop,” one passenger told Coun. Jeff Leiper after the accident. Leiper posted the passenger’s comments and the passenger’s photo of the derailed train on Twitter.

It is the second time in six weeks that one of the city’s LRT trains has left the tracks.

At a late afternoon media briefing, the city’s director of transit operations, Troy Charters, said one set of five wheels derailed from a westbound train soon after leaving Tremblay station. The wheels were in the centre of the second car that made up the train.

It was not travelling at high rate of speed, he said, and preliminary investigation suggests the incident is not connected to the Aug. 8 derailment, which was caused by a faulty axle.

“It does not appear to be connected to the Aug. 8 incident in that the wheels are still attached to the axle,” he said.

In an email to media Sunday evening, OC Transpo general manager John Manconi said “the vehicle involved in the incident had recently returned to service after undergoing repairs to an axle. At this time, we do not know if the same axle was involved in this incident.

“It appears that two axles on the second car of the train had derailed. There were approximately 12 customers on board. There were no injuries to customers or staff. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB), Transport Canada and the City’s Regulatory Monitor have been notified.”

Charter said the train suffered mechanical and cosmetic damage and the derailed wheels caused damage to the track and its infrastructure, including a switching unit.

As a precautionary measure, Charter said, service on the 12.5-kilometre Confederation Line has been suspended and buses deployed to serve passengers between Rideau and Blair stations.

OC Transpo update the situation in a tweet, specifying: “Service will continue to be suspended on Monday morning to allow for investigation and repairs. R1 bus service will continue operate from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair. Please allow extra time for travel. Please plan your trips using our online Travel Planner.”

Rideau Transit Maintenance CEO Mario Guerra said it could take up to a week to repair the damage and fully restore service. “There is quite a bit of damage to the infrastructure,” he said.

Replacement bus service will operate until the service is restored, Charters said, and it’s possible that partial LRT service will become available in the next few days.

Citizen transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert said the latest incident “definitely doesn’t inspire confidence in the reliability or safety of our LRT system.”

Mayor Jim Watson said Sunday that city staff are gathering information on the derailment and will provide “a full briefing” on what is known about the accident to the city’s transit commission Monday morning. That briefing, he said, will be available to the public on the city’s YouTube channel.

OC Transpo officials immediately de-energized the train after the noon-hour accident, and Ottawa Fire Services helped evacuate passengers. Fire crews remained on scene to ensure the train would not require stabilization.

Toby Allard, 14, was one of the first to arrive on the scene on his bicycle. He said about 20 passengers were taken off the train. “People were obviously panicked,” he said, “but no one was hurt.”

Allard and another frequent LRT passenger said they both noticed the train often “shudders” or vibrates as it rounds the turn west of Riverside Drive.

Ottawa police maintained control of the scene to ensure nothing was moved before accident investigators arrived.

Manconi said the next step after the derailment will be an assessment of the situation by the technical teams. “We are waiting for TSB investigators to provide clearance to undertake the inspection of the derailment.

“The train will be returned to Belfast Yard once it has been cleared to do so by investigators and safety certifiers.”

Manconi said in a later release that replacement buses will operate frequently between Tunney’s Pasture and Blair stations, but that travel times will be longer than regular train service. He said customers could plan their trips by using the online travel planner, which would be updated Sunday night, at .

TSB investigators have already probed cracked wheels and loose axle bearings on the city’s LRT vehicles during the past year.

Earlier this summer, councillors Catherine McKenney and Diane Deans asked that an emergency meeting of the city’s transit commission be called to discuss the Aug. 8 LRT derailment, attributed to a loose axle bearing, and other issues. Their request was rejected.

McKenney reacted to the latest accident Sunday on Twitter: “Another LRT derailment,” McKenney said. “Looks like we are getting that emergency meeting after all. Tomorrow’s Transit Commission must respond to this P3 (public-private partnership) failure. This is an embarrassment for Ottawa.”

Serving 13 stations, the $2.1 billion Confederation Line recently celebrated its second anniversary, but it has been lightly used for much of that time because of the pandemic.

Still, problems persist. It was shut down last month for five days following the derailment on Aug. 8 caused by a loose axle bearing on an out-of-service train.

After a fleet inspection by Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM), 10 train cars were sent for repairs to their axle assemblies.

There was another issue on Aug. 24 when early morning LRT service in part of the western stretch switched to replacement buses because a westbound train unexpectedly stopped between Pimisi and Bayview stations. Customers on the disabled train had to be transferred to another train. The backup buses ran for about an hour before regular train service resumed around 6:45 a.m. Defective trains also delayed LRT service at times on Aug. 20 and Aug. 26.

— With files from Jon Willing



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