Full O-Train service could be shut down for three weeks after LRT train derailment: RTM

Rideau Transit Maintenance warns it could be three weeks before full service resumes on the Confederation Line after an LRT car derailed this weekend, causing significant damage to the transit infrastructure.

A set of wheels on a train left the tracks early Sunday afternoon just west of Tremblay Station. There were 12 passengers and an LRT driver on board at the time but nobody was hurt.

The derailment—the second on the line in six weeks—brought the entire LRT service to a halt Sunday and Monday. R1 bus service is replacing the LRT from Tunney's Pasture to Blair stations.

A device that is used to put sand on the rails in the winter could be behind the derailment on Ottawa's $2.1 billion Confederation Line LRT, the city’s transit chief said Monday.

OC Transpo general manager John Manconi told the transit commission that very preliminary information suggests that this latest derailment does not appear to be related to the axle bearing problem that derailed a train in August, but rather to a sanding device on the underside of the train is used in winter to cut down on icing and add traction.

"The bracket that holds that unit could have become dislodged and could have caused the derailment," Manconi said, while stressing that these are very early findings that have not been certified and are not the Transportation Safety Board's findings.

"They are very, very early in the investigation phase but I thought it would be prudent (to share) because I'm aware that there's concerns about the overall safety and reliability of the system," Manconi said.

"The TSB is out there assessing everything, they're controlling the site and the vehicle. This is not their finding. This is the collective discussion that's been occurred by the many safety officials and rail experts that are out there, looking at what occurred."

OUT OF SERVICE

Speaking with reporters after the transit commission meeting, the chief executive officer of Rideau Transit Maintenance said their inspection showed there is significant damage to the track and infrastructure.

“We have realized attending the scene today with TSB and the city that there’s a lot more infrastructure damage than we originally thought. I think that may be on the critical path is our ability to get in there and repair all the damage to the ties, to the clips, to the switch machine. There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Mario Guerra.

“I think we’re probably looking, to get the entire system back up and running, that’s assuming that we can satisfy everyone that it’s safe to resume service I would say three weeks probably. We could look at running some partial service.”

Guerra said partial O-Train service could return west of the derailment site as the inspection and repairs continue.  Contractors will be on the scene Tuesday to provide a full assessment on the damage and what will be needed to fix the train.

“It will probably take us three weeks to make all the repairs to the infrastructure. We may run a partial service at some point. For full service to resume, I would say it will be a little while before we get the infrastructure repaired.”

Affected train had undergone axle repairs: Charter

Director of Transit Operations Troy Charter told the transit commission Monday morning that the car involved in Sunday's derailment had recently returned to service following axle repairs, adding that the preliminary information suggests the cause of Sunday's derailment is not the same as the cause of the Aug. 8 derailment.

Rideau Transit Group CEO Nicolas Truchon told transit commission that the bracket holding the sander device in place would need to be removed and reinstalled during the axle repair. 

"The bolts are torqued and there are torque marks that are put on the bolts that act as a visual for inspections to ensure that the bolts have not come loose," he said. 

Independent review

The TSB said in a release Monday that it has deployed an investigator to the scene to assess the incident. So far, a formal investigation has not yet been launched.

Manconi said he is recommending an independent review of Rideau Transit Maintenance's (RTM) plan for a return to service before the Confederation Line reopens to customers.

"I've instructed our chief safety officer to include in the order to RTM that before we can restore service for this incident, Sam Berrada, your independent rail regulatory officer, will be recommending to Mr. Kanellakos (Ottawa's City Manager) an independent safety officer review the return-to-service plan that RTM is proposing," Manconi said.

'We bought a lemon': Councillor calls for end to contract with Rideau Transit Group

Speaking on CTV News at Noon, Coun. Diane Deans said Ottawa's transit system is "in crisis" and she's calling for the city to sever its ties with Rideau Transit Group, the consortium that built and now maintains the line as Rideau Transit Maintenance.

"My number one question is, 'How do we get rid of Rideau Transit Maintenance Group?' We have a 30-year contract. They're clearly not maintaining the system to the standards we need. It's time for us to move on and I want to know how we do that," Deans said.

Early last year, following the first months of service, which saw several problems with doors, brakes, onboard computer systems, overhead catenary wires and others, other councillors--including transit commission chair Allan Hubley--had asked similar questions. A report prepared for the city's finance and economic development committee in March 2020 said calculating the cost of terminating the contract with RTG was incredibly complex

"That is due to the fact that the cost to the City of termination must necessarily include not only those costs directly associated with termination, but also any costs arising from setting up an alternate service provider," the report said.

Deans called the system "substandard" and said citizens sould not have to endure 30 years of poor performance.

"This is a substandard system. We bought a lemon and we need to get rid of this whole maintenance contract," Deans said. "We need to bring in new rail experts that tell us what it will take financially a]nd from a service perspective to put a system in place that is going to serve us well for the next 30 years. Continuing to make excuses for a substandard system is just not going to cut it."

Coun. Shawn Menard asked Hubley whether he would resign as chair of the transit commission. Hubley said he would not.