LRT train derails on Confederation Line near Tremblay Station

The O-Train is out of service until further notice after the second train derailment on the two-year-old, $2 billion Confederation Line in six weeks.

And Rideau Transit Maintenance warns it could be at least a week before service resumes on the Confederation Line after a train derailment near Tremblay Station damaged the track infrastructure.

OC Transpo says one set of five wheels on a train travelling westbound derailed just west of Tremblay Station at approximately 12:15 p.m. Sunday, damaging the LRT car and the track infrastructure. There were 12 passengers and a train operator onboard the train at the time of the derailment.

Photos on social media showed a significantly damaged LRT car with its wheels off the tracks approaching a curve near Riverside Drive. Several panels on the train were ripped open from the vehicle, and damage could be seen to the track and a switch unit.

"The train stopped after one set of five wheels had derailed in the centre of the second car," said Troy Charter, Director of Transit Operations during a media availability early Sunday evening.

"All emergency protocols were put in place, with Transport Canada, the Transportation Safety Board and the city's Regulatory Monitoring and Compliance Officer were all notified and engaged," said Charter.

"Shortly thereafter, and out of an abundance of caution, all train service was stopped pending an investigation into this occurrence."

The derailed LRT train had just returned to service after repairs to its axle. Charter said Sunday's derailment does not appear to be related to the issues with the axle bearing assembly identified as the cause of the derailment of an O-Train car near Tunney's Pasture on Aug. 8.

"While RTM and Alstom have commenced the root cause investigation, initially it does not appear to be related to the Aug. 8 incident in that the wheels are still attached to the axle," said Charter.

"However, we do know that this vehicle has recently been returned to service following repairs made to those axles. At this point, we know that there's damage to the train body, as well as some mechanical damage to the train."

Charter told reporters the derailed wheels caused "some damage" to the track and the track infrastructure that will require repairs before O-Train service resumes.

OC Transpo says the light rail transit service is now out of service from Blair Road to Tunney's Pasture, with R1 bus service running between stations along the entire route.  Charter told reporters R1 Replacement bus service will run on Monday, and could be extended further depending on the investigation and how long it takes to repair the O-Train infrastructure.

Rideau Transit Maintenance and Rideau Transit Group are investigating the derailment, and the Transportation Safety Board has been notified about the incident.  Ottawa police are also assisting with the investigation.

"Police are also on the scene reviewing to ensure that there was no outside factors that contributed to this incidence," said Charter. "The train will be returned to Belfast Yard once it has been cleared to do by investigators and by safety certifiers."

The Transportation Safety Board confirmed to CTV News Ottawa Sunday evening that an investigator is gathering information about the derailment.

"In connection with the OLRT incident, the TSB has deployed an investigator to the site. At this time, our investigator is gathering information and will assess the occurrence and determine the next steps," said the TSB in a statement.

In a memo late Sunday night, OC Transpo general manager John Manconi wrote that all trains, except for the one that derailed, would be physically inspected before being returned to the maintenance facility.

"The TSB has advised all parties that no one is to access the (derailed) train or any related materials on the guideway at this time. As such, there will be no actions taken specific to this vehicle to either re-rail or further inspect additional components on the incident train," Manconi wrote.

The Ottawa Fire Service said it was called to the rail line near Riverside Drive at 12:27 p.m. on reports of a derailment, which was "deemed minor in nature."

"Prior to arrival OC Transpo had de-energized the train and stopped train traffic in both directions," OFS said. "Ottawa Fire crews assisted with the evacuation of persons who were on board. Fire crews remained on location to ensure the train would not need to be stabilized prior to an investigation being conducted."

Coun. Jeff Leiper shared a photo of the stopped train off the rail on social media, saying a passenger on the train told him, "A couple of bumps, and it came to a stop."

I’ve been sent the following from a passenger on the train that has come off the rail. “A couple of bumps, and it came to a stop.” I’ve been told everyone is ok. pic.twitter.com/97BLEurR1s

— Jeff Leiper (@JLeiper) September 19, 2021

"Seeing this, you're just dumbfounded," said Coun. Shawn Menard on Sunday afternoon. "After all this, we just had another derailment, this is a brand new system. It's just a shocking feeling."

Menard says he wants to hear information from city staff and Rideau Transit Group on why these derailments keep happening.

"I’m concerned about the future with the construction we’ve had on this line and I hope we can get improvements into the future of phase three," said Menard. "We got to get this one working properly on Stage One first."

Mayor Jim Watson said on Twitter that a full update on the derailment would be provided at the Transit Commission meeting Monday morning.

"Staff are gathering all the info on the LRT issue that occurred this afternoon between Hurdman and Tremblay Stations," said Watson about two hours after the train stopped in Ottawa's east end.

"A full briefing on what is known will be provided tomorrow morning at Transit Commission, which you can watch on the City’s YouTube account."

Staff are gathering all the info on the LRT issue that occurred this afternoon between Hurdman and Tremblay Stations. A full briefing on what is known will be provided tomorrow morning at Transit Commission, which you can watch on the City’s YouTube account.

— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) September 19, 2021

Manconi says OC Transpo has notified the Transportation Safety Board of the derailment.

"There were no injuries and all passengers have been accommodated. The next steps are an assessment of the situation by the technical teams," said Manconi in a statement.

"We are waiting for TSB investigators to provide clearance to undertake the inspection of the derailment. R1 bus service continues to operate throughout the entire line. Details will be provided as they become available."

DAMAGE TO THE O-TRAIN INFRASTRUCTURE

The chief executive officer of Rideau Transit Maintenance told reporters it could take at least a week to repair the damage to the O-Train infrastructure.

"There's quite a bit of damage to the infrastructure and we do have limited access at this point as we're abiding by the TSB as the lead investigator," said Mario Guerra.

"I'm thinking at least a week at this point it's fair to say before we can get all the damage to the infrastructure. However, a limited service may be possible. But it's still too early to tell at this point."

Guerra said there is damage to the concrete tiles and clips along the track, and one switch unit has "extensive damage."

SECOND DERAILMENT THIS SUMMER

Sunday's derailment on the Confederation Line came one day before the Transit Commission meets for the first time since the middle of June.

Transit Commissioners will receive an update on the Confederation Line and OC Transpo service, including an update on the train derailment near Tunney's Pasture Station on Aug. 8.

Manconi said in August the LRT system was shut down out of an "abundance of caution" for five days after an axle became dislodged from the track. 

Manconi told councillors in a memo that the root cause investigation identified the fault in the axle bearing assembly.

"As part of the investigation, the sealed unit was taken a part and it was found that the green section of the bolt, which should be completely tightened, had a very small amount of movement, by fractions of a millimetre," wrote Manconi. "This movement caused damage to the bearings inside the unit and wheel, which in turn lead to the axle coming off the track on Sunday evening."

Nine O-Train cars were pulled out of service for additional analysis of the axle.

According to the OC Transpo Twitter feed, this is the first issue with the Confederation Line since a technical issue was reported on Sept. 3.

CALLS FOR AN INVESTIGATION

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney is calling for two independent task forces to be established to look into the Light Rail Transit system.

"First one to look into the original 2012 bid & provide full assessment of system delivery," said McKenney on Twitter.

"Second one of leading rail experts to determine & advise how we fix this mess."

Coun. Laura Dudas reacted to news of the derailment Sunday evening, saying "I am tired. No, I am exhausted. After receiving news of yet another issue with the LRT. I can't even say I am furious anymore."

"Of course I want answers. But honestly, I don't even care at this point. I only want to hear solutions. Some kind of permanent solution."

Dudas said she will be demanding answers at Monday's meeting.

"So what now? Shutting down the system and walking away is not feasible or realistic. But continuing in this fashion with RTG, the company that operates and maintains the train, is not an option."

We just hit the 2 year "anniversary" of the launch, I am horrified to imagine what the costs of all these shutdowns have been over the past 24 months. We know that the City withholds payments to RTG, that reminder is trotted out by OC Transpo senior staff at every shut down. 4/10

— Laura Dudas (@Laura_Dudas) September 19, 2021

Every week is like whack-a-mole with this thing. Software? Fixed. Axles? Fixed. Relay switches? Fixed. Door sensors? Fixed. I cannot imagine that any other city with an LRT goes through this mess. 7/10

— Laura Dudas (@Laura_Dudas) September 19, 2021

SHUTDOWN LRT INDEFINITELY: CITIZEN TRANSIT COMMISSIONER

Citizen Transit Commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert is calling for the entire LRT system to be shutdown "indefinitely" until an investigation is completed.

"The entire #LRTline needs to be shut down indefinitely until an independent investigation can be completed and customer safety can be guaranteed," said Wright-Gilbert on Twitter.

The entire #LRT line needs to be shut down indefinitely until an independent investigation can be completed and customer safety can be guaranteed. #OttawaLRT

— Sarah Wright-Gilbert (@smwgilbert) September 19, 2021

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Ted Raymond.