Damage to Ottawa’s Confederation Line LRT may take 'several days' to repair, according to a new memo from the city’s general manager of transit services.

In a memo sent Monday afternoon, Renée Amilcar said crews are on their way to Ottawa to help re-string overhead wires that were damaged by Sunday's storm. Work is expected to begin Tuesday morning.

“In addition, there is a stopped train on the line near uOttawa Station that lost power when the overhead wires were cut. It needs to be returned to the Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) for a thorough inspection,” Amilcar wrote. “Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) will also undertake an inspection and make necessary repairs to the rails in the area. It is anticipated that these activities will take several days to complete.”

Amilcar said Monday morning that it appears the system was damaged by a lightning strike. Trains were not running between Tunney’s Pasture and St. Laurent stations all day, with some service between St. Laurent and Blair in the east end of the line.


Amilcar wrote that OC Transpo is waiting on RTM to perform infrastructure repairs to enable trains to run between Tunney’s Pasture and Rideau stations to restore some service to the western LRT.

R1 bus service will continue to operate between Rideau and St. Laurent stations Tuesday.

“Line 1 service is expected to begin in the west tomorrow afternoon,” Amilcar said.

Amilcar says she will provide an update Tuesday on both the wheel issues identified over the weekend and the issues that arose Monday.

“Although both occurred just days apart, they are not related,” she said.

A storm blew through eastern Ontario causing widespread damage to rural communities outside the city and some power outages in Ottawa.

Reid DeLong was on the train Sunday night when he saw lightning just before his train came to a stop.

"I was between Ottawa U and Lees when I saw the lightning strike," he tells CTV News Ottawa. "I thought it was a bit off in the distance, but probably within about 20 seconds or 30 seconds we had the train completely stop and it seemed like everything shut down."

He says passengers were waiting about 30 to 40 minutes for a replacement train.

"Eventually, it was like okay no, the power’s not a thing so we are going to get a train to you guys and you guys are going to be stepping off the train under the guidance of constables," he said.

Timothy Lethbridge, a software engineering professor at the University of Ottawa, posted a video on social media showing some of the damage. He tells CTV News he suspected the LRT would be offline for several days.

"Once they remove the train, then they’ve got to put new catenary lines up, they’ve got to weight them right, and then make sure they’re balanced on both sides," he said. "They’ve got to get the expertise in to do it, including removing the train carefully, then reconstructing, then recalibrating. Engineering things of that level of intricacy are not done quickly, and it just seems inconceivable to me that that would be done overnight."

Amilcar said staff would be on site at transit stations to help direct customers; however, some transit users said Monday they had not seen any employees or signage at transit stations informing them of the R1 service or where to get it.

Coun. Riley Brockington, speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA, said a lack of information for customers drives him "bonkers."

"When there is a significant shutdown of the line, you need to be able to communicate that to the public, not just via social media," he said. "The audio system that all stations have; signage, where you put people in vehicles to put a significant amount of temporary signage up at stations to inform riders where to go."


City councillors on the transit commission said they were waiting all day for information and were just as in the dark as their constituents.

Transit commission chair Coun. Allan Hubley told Newstalk 580 CFRA on Monday morning that meetings were ongoing at transit headquarters to determine how quickly the situation could be resolved.

"This is fluid, it's happening as we speak, they're trying to figure out what they can do with it, so I can't answer a lot of questions about that," he said.

Coun. Theresa Kavanagh, a member of the city's transit commission, said she not heard any details about a timeline by Monday afternoon. She told CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron" that the damage may be worse than initially suspected.

"You've got to wonder how many times this could happen. How are we going to prevent it? What are you doing for next steps?" she said. "At this point, we just have the memo we got about R1 bus service that is happening."

That memo from Amilcar regarding the R1 service, identifying lightning as the suspected issue, was delivered to the media at 8:52 a.m. Monday. Kavanagh spoke just after 4 p.m. and said she had not heard any new information. The update from Amilcar arrived in CTV News Ottawa's inbox at 5:36 p.m.

"I don't think they have anything to tell us and it's frustrating because we don't know," she said. "I think they have to tell us, 'We don't know yet and we're still working on it,' because people still have to make plans. We don't want to give false hope and we want to be as accurate as possible... but we need to know."

Brockington, another transit commissioner, told CFRA on Monday afternoon that he had not received an update since 8:36 a.m. 

"People who take transit, rely on transit, particularly need information to plan their day," he said.

"I'm a huge proponent of providing the public with as much information as possible. I just don't think they're there yet." 

Brockington had expected an update before the end of the day. 

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Colton Praill.