Ottawa LRT shut down, TSB on scene after errant axle results in ‘abnormal and rough ride’

Crews inspect the damaged Confederation Line train just east of Tunney’s Pasture station on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Ten trains have now ben found to have similar issues. Nick Westoll / Global News

Ottawa’s light-rail transit system is expected to be out of service for most of the week as maintenance crews and the federal transportation watchdog look into the cause of a misaligned axle that was discovered on one of the trains.

Confederation Line LRT service was suspended after an operator, who was attempting to leave Tunney’s Pasture Station to return a train to the storage yard on Sunday night, experienced “an abnormal and rough ride,” according to a memo sent early Monday from Ottawa transit boss John Manconi.

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The train, which was already out-of-service and had no passengers on board, was inspected outside of Tunney’s Pasture, revealing one axle out of 10 had come off the rail.

The disturbance was enough to attract the attention of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), which dispatched a team of investigators to the site Monday.

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A spokesperson with the transportation watchdog told Global News that the incident occurred at 8:34 p.m. when a train was switching tracks.

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One of the wheels derailed on a switch, according to information provided to the TSB. The switch was damaged as a result.

Rideau Transit Maintenance’s initial review suggests an issue in the axle bearing is the source of the fault, Manconi said in a follow-up memo on Monday evening.

RTM is now inspecting all LRT vehicles before re-entering the trains into service, a process that takes multiple hours per vehicle. One train’s inspections were already complete Monday night, but it will take until Friday or Saturday to put enough trains on the track to match current ridership levels, Manconi said.

On Tuesday, work will start to move the disabled train from Tunney’s Pasture. This could take up to two days, Manconi said in his memo, and may include repairs to the vehicle and infrastructure at the site.

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RTM spokesperson Helen Bobat said Monday evening that maintenance teams are following an inspection program developed by train-maker Alstom. She said Alstom will conduct a “full internal investigation” and will report findings to both Rideau Transit Group and OC Transpo.

The TSB spokesperson said it is currently in an information-gathering phase and has not officially launched an investigation. The extent of any formal probe, if warranted, would be determined by investigators’ initial findings.

The TSB previously launched an investigation in July 2020 when it was discovered that some wheels on the LRT vehicles had cracks in them.

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R1 replacement bus service is in place across the Confederation Line in the interim.

Manconi described the closures as being done out of “an abundance of caution” to ensure the entire fleet of trains can operate safely.

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