Ottawa

City, LRT builders apologize for latest breakdown

Officials are apologizing after a power line atop one of Ottawa's new LRT trains snapped as it entered St-Laurent station Thursday, halting service between Hurdman and Blair stations and throwing the afternoon commute into turmoil.

Power line on eastbound train 'snagged' as it entered St-Laurent station

Rideau Transit Group CEO Peter Lauch said he's confident in overnight repairs after a power line broke Thursday afternoon near St-Laurent station. Mayor Jim Watson apologized to commuters, many of whom were forced to wait for replacement buses in frigid weather. 0:59

Officials are apologizing after a power line atop one of Ottawa's new LRT trains snapped as it entered St-Laurent station Thursday, halting service between Hurdman and Blair stations and throwing the afternoon commute into turmoil for thousands of riders.

The broken line was repaired overnight, so Confederation Line service was restored by Friday morning.

The inspections and testing necessary to get full service back on the Confederation Line were finished at about 4:15 a.m., said Rideau Transit Group (RTG) chief executive officer Peter Lauch at a news conference later Friday morning.

Lauch said it appears the power cable snagged on something as the eastbound train entered the station around 10:50 a.m., but said the exact cause of the incident is still under investigation. On Thursday, he said RTG hadn't experienced a similar problem during testing last fall.

OC Transpo's operations director Troy Charter explained it's at St-Laurent where the wire, which hangs free at open-air stations, becomes fixed to the ceiling.

This diagram shows two different ways of hanging power lines for Confederation Line trains, divided by the dotted line. To the left is how it works in open-air stations, to the right is how it is supported in stations with lower roofs. (City of Ottawa)

A timeline

Lauch explained there's a tension sensor on the system's power lines that detect when something goes wrong and immediately "de-energizes" the system, which is what happened Thursday.

"It's like a fuse in your house," he said, adding that passengers' safety was never at risk.

Rideau Transit Group chief executive officer Peter Lauch during a news conference Jan. 17, 2020. (CBC)

Crews made sure the power stayed off as they cut and removed the wire from the train, Lauch said, before moving the train to a storage facility where it's undergoing repairs.

About 35 metres of overhead guiderail for the power line was damaged and some supporting parts were bent or broken in the incident, he said.

Lauch said workers repaired the guiderail, restored power and conducted tests, all in time to resume normal service Friday morning.

Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo's director of customer systems and planning, said there were four different contingency plans in case the system wasn't ready for 5 a.m., but they weren't needed.

Serious disruption

East-end commuters had to rely on backup bus service through the afternoon rush hour.

The nearly 15-hour disruption was by far the longest since the Confederation Line's launch in September.

Scrimgeour said this was the first time they had to call in all 60 to 70 replacement R1 buses OC Transpo has available.

People wait for buses at Hurdman station on Jan. 16, 2020, after an overhead wire broke and caused serious delays on the eastern portion of the Confederation LRT line. (Hugo Bélanger/CBC)

"This really sucks, actually — waiting in this cold weather with this amount of people waiting for a bus just to get home," OC Transpo customer Joe Green, bundled in a toque and hoodie, said Thursday.

"Me as a construction worker, I don't have [an option to work] at home," said Rory Brissett. "The train is my only access [to work] other than driving."

"This is not the level of service our customers are expecting, and not the level of service we want to be offering," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Friday.

With files from Laura Glowacki

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