Train shortage forces all-day bus service

OC Transpo found itself seriously short of LRT trains Thursday, with just seven running instead of the usual 13.

Confederation Line down to just 7 trains today

S1 buses, which run between downtown Ottawa and 3 Confederation Line hubs, will run all day today instead of during peak periods only. (Francis Ferland/CBC)


  • The same extra S1 and R1 service is running Friday, which starts with 8 trains.


OC Transpo found itself seriously short of LRT trains Thursday, with just seven running instead of the usual 13.

At a news conference, officials said nine trains were launched Thursday morning, but two experienced power issues at Rideau and Tremblay stations. 

Those trains had been removed and all platforms reopened by about 8 a.m. That reduced service to every eight minutes, double the goal of every four minutes during peak periods.

Because of the shortage, OC Transpo will run S1 express buses from Tunney's Pasture, Hurdman and Blair stations all day instead of just during peak periods, along with its R1 buses that stop at all LRT stations.

Riders forced to walk

The shortage comes after a loose power component shut down the LRT's east-end service yesterday, along with problems on three separate trains.

Those issues were fixed as of 12:20 a.m.


OC Transpo's director of operations, Troy Charter, said passengers have had to exit disabled trains and walk to a nearby station twice over the last 24 hours. On another occasion, passengers were transferred directly to a working train.

A light rail train near Tunney's Pasture station in Ottawa Feb. 27, 2020, one of seven running at the time. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The city actually purchased 34 Alstom Citadis Spirit train vehicles, enough for 17 coupled trains.

Rideau Transit Group (RTG) CEO Peter Lauch, whose consortium built and maintains the LRT, said the trains have been pulled out of service for a variety of reasons including "heavy maintenance." Three of the trains are getting covers over the power connections on their roofs, which have proved vulnerable to winter weather.

Commuters told CBC News they were frustrated by numerous delays on the Confederation Line this morning, leading to longer waits made worse by a winter storm sweeping the region. 0:53

The Confederation Line was supposed to run with 15 trains plus two spares, but it's never had 15 working trains.

OC Transpo now says it needs 13 trains to keep on its peak period schedule.

"The customer doesn't want to hear the excuses, the rationale, the technical nuts and bolts. They want one thing: service," said OC Transpo general manager John Manconi.

"What the city is doing, will continue to do and is going to do more is to hold RTG accountable to the service that our customers deserve."

As problems with the LRT continue, OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi defended efforts to restore consistent service to the Confederation Line. RTG CEO Peter Lauch says fixes for every issue LRT vehicles have experienced will be incorporated into future train models. 1:15

Manconi said he wanted British rail consulting firm JBA Corporation in "months ago" to check the system for areas of improvement, but it took him two months to convince RTG to do it.

Lauch declined to comment on the timeline.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.