Derailment video shown to LRT public inquiry on final day of hearings
Lawyers suggest train driver and maintenance director could each have done more
On the final day of testimony at the public inquiry investigating Ottawa's light rail system, the commission saw video of the incident that arguably led to it all in the first place: a derailed train pulling out of Tremblay Station late last summer, spewing stones onto the platform.
In addition to that view, which had not previously been shown to the public, a second closed-circuit camera captured Rideau Transit Maintenance's maintenance manager, who happened to be on that train and disembarked at the station after hearing a sound.
The OC Transpo operator didn't notice the train had derailed, however, so the vehicle travelled another 1,400 feet with 12 passengers on board before going off the tracks.
The derailment — the second in two months — shut down the rail spine of Ottawa's public transit system from Sept. 19 to Nov. 11 of 2021 and led the City of Ottawa to issue Rideau Transit Group a second notice of default for not living up to its contract.
- LRT shut down again after 2nd train derailment since August
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The Transportation Safety Board concluded last November that an Alstom maintenance employee had not properly torqued a bolt on the wheel hub before a shift change.
"This accident has demonstrated that there can be serious consequences resulting from the inconsistent and incomplete maintenance of safety-critical components on a [light rail vehicle] in commuter passenger service," wrote TSB's former director of rail investigations, Paul Treboutat. (Treboutat has since been hired as OC Transpo's chief safety officer.)
Lawyers for the Ottawa Light Rail Commission, which was created by the provincial government to investigate Ottawa's LRT, have not spent much time questioning witnesses about the September derailment during the four weeks of hearings.
Instead, it was an external lawyer for the City of Ottawa and a lawyer for the train's manufacturer and maintenance subcontractor, Alstom, who introduced the two videos on Thursday morning.
They presented different camera angles of the Tremblay Station platform, in order to make two very different arguments.
Operator distracted by feces odour
Michael Valo, Alstom's lawyer, had spoken earlier in the week about the City of Ottawa's own incident report the day of the September derailment, when questioning Troy Charter, the city's director of transit operations.
The radio transcript showed the driver was "distracted and talking to the control room about the smell of human feces on the train while he was dwelling at Tremblay Station," Valo described.
Charter disagreed the operator was distracted, even as Valo suggested the driver's cab window was open and he should have heard the ballast being kicked onto the western platform, the vehicle scraping and the gearbox falling off.
Valo again brought up the idea of driver distraction on Thursday while questioning Mario Guerra, the CEO of Rideau Transit Maintenance, to which Alstom is subcontracted, but this time showed video.
The operator should have noticed the problem and stopped the vehicle sooner, Guerra testified, which would have minimized the significant damage further along the track. The operator should have seen dust on his cameras, he added.
Maintenance director disembarks
Lawyers for the City of Ottawa, however, have twice suggested RTM's own maintenance director could have done more.
Steven Nadon happened to be on board that day, and he described the coincidence in his witness interview with public inquiry lawyers in April.
"I had my family on there, my grandchildren, just going for a joy ride. We were taking the train and it was the first time on the train, they were excited," he said then.
"Between St. Laurent and Tremblay, I had heard a clinging sound beneath me and I thought a cable had come loose, or something was dragging. So I told my wife, we're going to get off at the next station because I don't think this train is going to make it to our final destination, it's going to get pulled out of service."
WATCH | City lawyer questions why RTM maintenance manager didn't do more
At the hearings on Thursday, a lawyer from the firm hired by the City of Ottawa played the video that showed Nadon getting off, and pulling out his phone.
"He didn't take any actions to stop this train. He didn't hit the passenger emergency intercom, did he? He didn't put his foot in the door to stop the train?" asked Catherine Gleason-Mercier, in a line of questioning similar to what her colleague had put to Charter earlier in the week.
Guerra said there was no reason he should take such steps, and expected Nadon took out his phone in order to flag a problem.
Nadon had indeed mentioned in his own earlier interview that he called the control centre to say the train needed to be taken out of service.
"As it departed, it kicked ballast up all over the platform. Immediately I knew it had been derailed," Nadon had said.