Portion of LRT service resumes from Tunney’s Pasture to UOttawa

A woman goes through the fare gates at Tunney’s Pasture station.
LRT service is running again from Tunney’s Pasture station to UOttawa station. File photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

A portion of Ottawa’s light rail transit system has resumed service Thursday morning after it shut down during yesterdays ice storm.

OC Transpo says trains are running from Tunney’s Pasture to UOttawa stations. R1 bus service remains in place from Rideau to Blair, and shuttle buses are running between Cyrville and St. Laurent.

Line One of the O-Train came to a halt Wednesday morning after five trains became immobilized due to power issues. A decision was made to shut down the full system in order to protect its infrastructure.

“When the overhead wire that supplies the power has ice on it, the pantograph on the vehicle is not making good contact, and we see big fluctuations in voltage,” said Rideau Transit Maintenance CEO Mario Guerra. “When the vehicle sees that, it shuts down to protect itself.”

Transit officials said the system did what it was designed to do, but Glen Gower, chair of Ottawa’s transportation committee, said freezing rain shouldn’t take down the system.

Passengers were trapped for over two hours on the immobilized train and firefighters had to cut a hole through a fence in order to rescue them.

OC Transpo said they took “precautions” ahead of Wednesdays ice storm, and tried to implement lessons learned after freezing rain shut down the system for five days in January. The said 10 of the 13 trains with equipped with winter carbons aimed to reduce ice buildup on the overhead wires.

Renée Amilcar, general manager at OC Transpo, called the outages “disappointing” and said an investigation would be done. She noted the trains might be too sensitive to power surges.

Also under review is how transportation officials handled the situation. Commuters on the stuck trains said they received no communication before emergency personnel arrived.

Work to restore the system included: “Manual removal of built-up ice on the overhead wires; Re-energizing of the system; and Inspection of stopped trains and removal from the line,” said a memo to the mayor and members of council.

Full service is expected to resume later today.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said he too was “frustrated” by the disruption.

Guerra from Rideau Transit Maintenance said they hope to have longer-term fixes in place for next winter.

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