Ottawa's LRT returns to service today, after nearly 2 months off the rails

Seven trains plus a spare were given the OK to return to service on Friday, triggering the plans for free transit in December.

Confederation Line was without service after derailment on Sept. 19

A train sits at Ottawa's Hurdman LRT station on Sept. 14, 2019. Seven trains and a spare started running Friday. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Ottawa's light rail system returned to partial service on Friday morning after a prolonged closure. 

It was out of service for nearly two months — one month, 23 days, 16 hours and 30 minutes to be exact — after a train derailed before entering Tremblay Station on Sept. 19. 

Seven trains plus a spare were given the OK for Friday by the Philadelphia-based firm Transportation Resource Associates (TRA), which the City of Ottawa contracted to assess the return-to-service plan for the Confederation Line. The trains are slated to arrive at a station every eight minutes. 

The R1 replacement bus service is still running and will continue to run until city staff deems the ridership numbers no longer justify them. 

The plan is for the number of active trains to slowly increase, with full service expected by the end of the month. The city confirmed Friday that transit will be free in December, as council voted for last month.

‘I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop:’ Some commuters unconvinced as LRT reopens

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Nearly two months after a derailment scuttled the Confederation Line, commuters returned to the LRT on Friday, though some remained unconvinced of its reliability.

LRT scrutinized

TRA will continue to review the rollout of a full return. It is also developing an ongoing monitoring plan to complement OC Transpo's, the city's manager Steve Kallenakos said in a memo earlier this week. 

In its report on what caused the September derailment, the Transportation Safety Board found that protocols were not being properly followed by staff at the maintenance yard and recommended more careful oversight. 

Beyond the day-to-day processes, the province is considering its own review of the LRT after the city voted down a judicial inquiry into the project.

This would be in addition to the audit Nathalie Gougeon, the city's auditor general, will undertake.

Gougeon is expected to look into the process that led to the city's contract with Rideau Transit Group to design, build and maintain the Confederation Line.

Riders express confidence in system

LRT commuters who spoke to CBC Ottawa and Radio-Canada Friday morning said they're confident that the trains will keep running without issues.

"Awesome — better than standing outside in this rain," Rebecca Kahle said of her train ride. "I trust the train."

Others put their faith in the testing done prior to reopening.

"I was a little nervous because I'm on my way to the airport, and I thought, 'What if a car breaks down?'" Cindy McCammon said.

"I'm assuming it wouldn't be running if it wasn't safe, so hopefully it's all good now," Isla Foss said.

With files from Joe Tunney