Maintenance group ‘working day and night’ as Ottawa LRT train shortage hits 3rd day

There has been a shortage of trains on Ottawa's LRT line for three days in a row so far this week. City of Ottawa

Ottawa’s Confederation Line once again suffered a shortage of trains during the morning and afternoon rush hours on Wednesday, marking the third day in a row that the $2.1-billion LRT system hasn’t had enough vehicles on the tracks to carry riders at peak travel times.

Eleven trains were in service for the morning rush hour, compared to the 13 that are needed for that time of day, the head of OC Transpo reported in the morning.

That number shrunk to 10 trains for the start of the afternoon commute but returned to 11 shortly before 5 p.m., according to later updates.

READ MORE: Ottawa LRT train shortage continues into Tuesday afternoon

To compensate for the shortage, Ottawa’s public transit agency once again offered “special” bus service directly to downtown from Hurdman and Tunney’s Pasture stations from 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and then back again from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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Asked whether OC Transpo will offer those replacement bus trips further into the week, the agency’s director of transit customer systems and planning said: “Decisions will be made based on the number of trains in service on Line 1.”

“OC Transpo will continue to supplement Line 1 service with bus replacement service as required in order to provide sufficient capacity for customers,” Pat Scrimgeour wrote in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

The City of Ottawa has said it continues to hold the company contracted to maintain the Confederation Line — Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) — “to account for ongoing O-Train Line 1 maintenance issues.”

Global News sent a list of questions about the train shortage to the consortium and was told in response that “RTM is working day and night to get more trains back onto tracks and restore full service.”

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“Tomorrow, RTM will attend the transit commission meeting where they will discuss and respond to questions on the recent issues that have resulted in service disruptions and trains being taken out of service,” spokesperson Jodi Rogers said in an emailed statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“RTM is unavailable for further comment today as we put all efforts into resolving outstanding technical issues and repairs. This includes ongoing investigations into the root causes for moving trains into maintenance and repair.”

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A special transit commission meeting was called for 2 p.m. on Thursday at Ottawa City Hall, purely to get an update on the status of the LRT system, according to the chair of the commission.

RTM is the maintenance division of Rideau Transit Group, the consortium the city chose to design and build the Confederation Line.

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It remains unclear how much longer the train shortage will last. On Tuesday morning, the fleet in service was down to eight trains.

That morning, “all available vehicles were in service, including all available backup trains,” Troy Charter, the city’s director of transit services, confirmed in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

READ MORE: ‘Special’ buses to carry riders during peak hours Tuesday amidst train shortage — OC Transpo

According to OC Transpo, there needs to be 13 trains running during the morning and afternoon peak hours to handle the volume of riders and 11 for midday service.

Late Wednesday morning, the agency said there were enough trains running for midday service.

Trains are supposed to arrive every four minutes during rush hour if all 13 trains are in service. With only 11 trains, OC Transpo has told passengers to expect a train every five minutes.

On Wednesday, the agency’s Twitter account reported crowds and “slightly longer wait times” at some stations at 8:45 a.m.

OC Transpo also reported a switch problem at 7 a.m. and then half an hour later that the switch issue had been resolved.

READ MORE: Ottawa mayor, transit officials apologize for long LRT disruption after broken wire

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In an update Tuesday night, OC Transpo boss John Manconi originally said 10 trains would be available for the Wednesday morning rush hour but that an 11th train may be made available.

Manconi confirmed the 11th train was in service shortly before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The LRT train shortage this week follows problems with track switches and switch heaters over the weekend and a broken overhead power cable last Thursday.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Peter Lauch, who heads up RTG and RTM, both apologized for the disruption caused by the snapped power line at a news conference on Friday.

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