OTTAWA -- Ottawa's nine-month-old Confederation Line is closed for maintenance as the City of Ottawa continues to push the Rideau Transit Group to fix the problem-plagued system before the end of summer.

This is the fourth scheduled closure of the entire Confederation Line for maintenance and testing this year, taking advantage of lower ridership because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

R1 bus service will ferry Sunday LRT riders between Tunney's Pasture and Blair stations.

A partial shut down of the line will continue Monday through Wednesday. The LRT will be closed from Tunney's Pasture to uOttawa stations. Trains will continue to run between uOttawa and Blair stations. R1 buses will run between Tunney's Pasture and Lees stations.

Full service is scheduled to resume Thursday.

The City says the closure will allow RTG to "update software and complete infrastructure work and maintenance to address issues that have impacted reliability."

OC Transpo boss not confident issues will be fixed by fall

Speaking at last week's transit commission meeting, Transportation Services General Manager John Manconi expressed doubt that RTG would be up to the task of solving the major issues that have troubled the line since shortly after its launch in September 2019.

"I'm not putting this organization, and I'm not putting yourselves and our customers through another winter of hell," said Manconi, when discussing the push by the city to fix the Confederation Line as soon as possible.

"I made that clear to RTG, and they're not getting paid because they're not producing product. We're not going to lose the bad experiences. I am not forgetting New Year's Eve. January was horrible for our service, our brand, our customers."

In response to a question from Citizen Transit Commission Sarah Wright-Gilbert about confidence that the system will be fixed by the end of August, Manconi said, "We are not confident that they are tracking to the end of August, that's because they have not confirmed to us in writing that they can achieve that date."

Wright-Gilbert has been increasingly vocal on social media in calling for the City to sever ties with RTG. It's a discussion that has been raised by some city councillors in the past year, including transit commission chair Allan Hubley.

In March, the City issued a notice of default to RTG under the project agreement for unsatisfactory service, which led to the consortium submitting a plan outlining how to fix the problems that, according to City staff, did not include a clear timeline and suggested some problems may persist into the winter.

At last Wednesday's transit commission meeting, OC Transpo's Troy Charter outlined some of the work completed by Rideau Transit Group this spring on the Confederation Line. It included:

  • Ongoing testing of updated train control software and communication system software to improve vehicle and system performance
  • Detailed cleaning and inspection of the overhead catenary system
  • Inspections and adjustments of the overhead catenary system to optimize the positioning of the wires
  • Track work including adjustment of the ballast to correct settlement issues
  • Installation of new vehicle passenger door software to reduce door related disruptions and door faults
  • Vehicle retrofit work and modification work, routine maintenance, inspections, and corrective maintenance

Issues continue

Despite some progress on solving issues on the line, the LRT continued to be impacted by service delays last week. 

On Thursday, OC Transpo blamed the heat for slower than normal service on the Confederation Line. Trains were ordered to slow down to a maximum speed of 50 km/h, which OC Transpo said in a tweet was standard operating procedure for rail lines, including Lines 1 and 2.

OC Transpo has not tweeted about heat-related delays since Thursday, despite the city experiencing similar temperatures Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, passengers were left waiting for more than 30 minutes two separate times because of technical issues and brake faults.

With reporting from CTV Ottawa's Josh Pringle.