Ottawa

Train shortage causes LRT delays, crowding

OC Transpo has confirmed it won't have enough working trains to keep its four-month-old Confederation Line on schedule during the afternoon rush.

Special buses available into core 7:30-9 a.m., outbound 3-5:30 p.m.

'Special' buses run near Tunney's Pasture station Jan. 21, 2020 during a train shortage. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

For the second day in a row, OC Transpo doesn't have enough working trains to adequately service its four-month-old Confederation Line. 

It said Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. it would have 10 working trains through the afternoon rush, meaning trains will run approximately every five or six minutes instead of every three minutes during that peak period.

At times this morning, as few as eight were running.

OC Transpo is running "special buses" alongside its trains to help alleviate expected crowds and delays on the LRT line caused by the train shortage.

From 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., OC Transpo will run special buses from Albert Street, just west of O'Connor Street near Parliament station, to both Hurdman and Tunney's Pasture stations to get out of the core.

It was a crowded morning on the LRT with only nine trains running during peak hours. OC Transpo is running buses along the line during both the morning and evening rush hours to try to alleviate some of the pressure.  0:41

Those buses ran from Hurdman and Tunney's Pasture stations to downtown from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Buses from Hurdman dropped passengers off at stops on Albert Street, similar to how express buses worked before Oct. 6, 2019 (but without stopping at stations along the way).

Buses leaving from Tunney's Pasture let people off on Slater Street.

10 trains yesterday; 13 normally

On Monday afternoon, only 10 trains were working down from the 13 at rush hour and 11 during off-peak times required to meet rider demand.

"It's just frustrating," said Coun. Riley Brockington on Monday. The River councillor is also a member of Ottawa's transit commission.

"Most reasonable people can understand and accept some issues now and then with the public transit system as a whole, but not with the frequency that we've seen for such a brand new service."

Costs to run the special replacement buses Tuesday will be charged to the LRT's builders Rideau Transit Group, said Manconi.

They're now responsible for maintenance on the LRT under the name Rideau Transit Maintenance.

OC Transpo buses lined up on Albert Street on Jan. 21, 2020. The transit agency is running special buses to help commuters get out of the downtown core while a train shortage causes delays on the LRT. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/Radio Canada)

The drop in the number of trains Monday and Tuesday was caused by a handful of problems with trains.

On Thursday a wire above a train broke and damaged the train as it entered St. Laurent station, one train is out of service with a compressor issue and a few other trains are experiencing wheel flats, said OC Transpo operations director Troy Charter Monday afternoon.

Wheel flats mean part of the wheel is dragging on the track instead of turning.

That issue is "a main contributor to the inability to have 13 trains at peak period right now," he said.

Special meeting Thursday

The city owns 17 double-carriage trains for the Confederation Line, but two trains have yet to be sufficiently tested and are not ready for service.

The other 15 are used in regular rotation or as backups, said Brockington.

As only eight were working Tuesday it stands to reason seven trains were undergoing or have undergone repairs at the same time. Again, the city has not confirmed this.

A crowded Tunney's Pasture station platform during Confederation Line delays Jan. 21, 2020. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

"Sometimes you have to take trains out of service for regular maintenance that's planned, but the number of issues that we've seen and the technical issues with these trains is not something that we should expect," said Brockington.

The city councillor plans to raise both the St. Laurent station wire break and the lack of working trains at a special transit commission meeting on Thursday.

Both officials with Rideau Transit Maintenance and OC Transpo are attending Thursday's meeting.

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

With files from Joanne Chianello

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