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Ottawa LRT service down on east end, riders evacuated off two stopped trains on Confederation Line

An OC Transpo light-rail train is seen heading towards downtown Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. An initial investigation finds jacking screws might be the cause of wheel cracks on the troubled transit line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

LRT service ground to halt on the Confederation Line’s east end Wednesday afternoon and passengers were evacuated off two light-rail trains that stopped on the tracks after a component of the overhead wire system that supplies power to the trains became “loose,” OC Transpo says.

One train stopped just east of St-Laurent station and the another came to halt just east of Tremblay station, near Ottawa’s VIA Rail station, according to a series of updates from the head of the city’s public transit agency.

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

As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, trains still weren’t running between Hurdman and Blair stations; replacement buses were deployed to carry riders between those stations.

The LRT continues to run between Hurdman and Tunney’s Pasture stations, according to OC Transpo’s Twitter account – although another stopped train at uOttawa station caused one more service hiccup at another point in the evening.

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OC Transpo boss John Manconi confirmed that passengers aboard the first stopped train were evacuated from the vehicle and escorted to St-Laurent station.

Riders on the stopped train near Tremblay station got transferred onto another train that took them to the next station, he said shortly before 6 p.m.

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The consortium contracted to maintain the Conferation Line says it has the parts to make the necessary repairs to the overhead catenary system and will start that work “shortly after rush hour,” according to Manconi.

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“As soon as repairs and testing is complete, train service will resume along the full length of the line,” Manconi said just before 7 p.m.

After the infrastructure incident occurred, OC Transpo also suspended special bus routes that take riders directly from downtown to major transfer stations during the afternoon rush hour.

OC Transpo, maintenance company activate winter plans for snowstorm

The major LRT service disruption came as snow began to blanket Ottawa, the beginning of what’s expected to be a major snowstorm. Environment Canada has placed the national capital under a winter storm warning.

It’s not yet clear what part of the catenary system loosened or if it was related to the weather. But just minutes before OC Transpo reported the LRT issue during Wednesday’s rush hour, Manconi sent out an email outlining what preparations the transit agency and Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) had been making ahead of the massive snowfall.

“As with any significant storm event, we anticipate longer travel times for road users throughout the entire transportation network,” he wrote.

READ MORE: Winter storm warning issued as Ottawa braces for up to 40 cm of snow by Thursday

RTM and its contractors will be clearing snow with specialized equipment throughout the storm and “dedicated” staff will be both clearing snow at the LRT’s above-ground stations and maintaining the stairs in the underground stations, Manconi wrote.

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Other crews will perform “proactive clearing and testing” of rail switches on the tracks and monitor the stations, vehicles and rail infrastructure, Manconi said.

Ahead of the storm, OC Transpo has adjusted the rate at which the trains brake, so they brake and accelerate more gradually when entering and leaving stations, according to Manconi.

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If needed, OC Transpo and RTM will continue running the trains overnight. The agency increased staffing levels in anticipation of the major weather event, the manager said.

OC Transpo will make service adjustments if required, Manconi said.

RTM is the maintenance division of Rideau Transit Group, the consortium the City of Ottawa hired to design and build the Confederation Line.

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