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Tunnel troubles shut some stations along Ottawa’s beleaguered LRT system — again

An Ottawa Light Rail Transit (OLRT) train travels along the tracks in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The new year brings no fresh start for Ottawa's ill-fated light rail train system after concrete debris was found on the tracks of an LRT station tunnel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The new year brought no fresh start for Ottawa’s ill-fated light rail train system, after concrete debris found on the tracks of an LRT station tunnel forced a partial shutdown of the system.

Train service was halted for more than six hours to three of the 13 stations along the city’s main east-west line, while city infrastructure workers did a safety inspection at the St. Laurent station tunnel.

Renée Amilcar, Ottawa’s general manager of transit services, said in a memo to the mayor and city councillors midday Tuesday that train service wasn’t running while the inspection was completed.

Replacement buses were put on the road to shuttle commuters between the affected stations.

Shortly after 5 p.m., Amilcar said the service was restored to the entire system.

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Carina Duclos, the acting general manager of the city’s infrastructure and water services department, said in a separate memo to the mayor and councillors Tuesday that the inspection found delamination, which involves the separation of the paste layer at the surface, creating an unbonded layer with the main slab of concrete.

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She said the tunnel was originally built in the mid-’80s and it is not unusual to see this type of problem in an older structure.

The capital city’s LRT system, some of which incorporated existing infrastructure, is not even five years old and has been beset by repeated problems and constant service shutdowns.

Jammed doors, damaged wheels and icy weather that shorted out electrical wires have repeatedly affected service, and serious safety issues with the train’s track construction led to a month-long shutdown last summer.

A public inquiry in 2022 uncovered myriad problems stemming from political and business decisions to rush the system into service despite significant known issues with testing, particularly in Ottawa’s winter climate.

OC Transpo told commuters via social media Tuesday morning that this time, the stations were closed “out of an abundance of caution.”

No more information was provided on where the concrete debris came from or whether any serious problems have been uncovered.

Most of the major issues with the LRT to date have been related to the tracks and the train cars.

But the tunnels and stations have had their share of issues, too, including a sewage line leak in the system’s earliest days that filled two downtown stations with an unpleasant odour.

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And last spring, the tunnel under the city’s downtown was closed briefly to repair water that was leaking through the walls.

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