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Ottawa LRT train shortage worsens during PM rush hour, service short 5 trains

OC Transpo trains are seen on Line 1.
OC Transpo trains are seen on Line 1. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

A train shortage on Ottawa’s Confederation Line worsened during Friday’s afternoon rush hour, with only eight trains running on the tracks at 4 p.m., according to OC Transpo management.

The update comes after “debris” on the western end of the LRT tracks damaged four transponders and caused four trains to get pulled in for maintenance due to flat spots on their wheels.

The problem left only 10 trains available for the afternoon commute, instead of the 13 needed to carry riders during weekday rush hours. Just hours later, the working fleet was down to eight trains — but OC Transpo hasn’t yet explained why two more trains had to get pulled off the tracks.

“… no ETA yet on when we get to 9 or 10 trains,” transportation services manager John Manconi said in an update sent to media shortly before 4:15 p.m.

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Rideau Transit Group CEO apologizes to Ottawa’s transit riders for ‘recent spate of service interruptions’ on LRT
Rideau Transit Group CEO apologizes to Ottawa’s transit riders for ‘recent spate of service interruptions’ on LRT

OC Transpo is using its backup fleet of 20 buses to provide replacement bus service. The agency is also cancelling some trips on regular “high frequency” bus routes in order to pull in an extra 10 buses.

This replacement bus service plan is based on “lower usual Friday ridership, a PD day for students and a Friday before the long weekend,” Manconi said.

Manconi reported the damaged transponders earlier Friday afternoon. The transponders communicate trains’ locations to the central control centre when the vehicles pass over them.

When that signal isn’t transmitted, the LRT trains are forced to stop and have to get “authorization” from the control centre to keep moving, according to Manconi.

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READ MORE: OC Transpo apologizes for not ‘fully’ informing council about September LRT payment

Manconi hasn’t specified what kind of debris was responsible for disrupting service and shrinking the train fleet, but confirmed the damaged transponders were on the westbound tracks between Tunney’s Pasture and Bayview stations.

The transponders have since been repaired and “the debris issue and the cause of the damage to the transponders is being investigated,” Manconi said.

LRT service continued “at a reduced speed” between Tunney’s Pasture and Bayview after the four trains were pulled away for maintenance and while the transponders were getting repaired, according to an earlier update from Manconi.

Riders travelling between Tunney’s Pasture and Lyon Station midday were told they may experience longer wait times and may have to transfer trains at Lyon.

READ MORE: Ottawa’s LRT up to 5 trains short Thursday as electrical, wheel issues continue

A wave of flat spots on the trains’ wheels in January was one reason why the Confederation Line experienced a train shortage for about two weeks.

The city’s transit commission heard last month that wheel flats do happen on rail lines and can be caused by sudden and repeated heavy braking.

Since January, RTG has been getting help from rail experts working for a U.K.-based consultancy, in hopes of improving unreliable service on the problem-plagued LRT system.

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The full Confederation Line fleet consists of 17 trains.

Head of OC Transpo says LRT maintenance group will bring in outside experts to help improve service
Head of OC Transpo says LRT maintenance group will bring in outside experts to help improve service