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Here's how staff will try to prevent freezing rain buildup on Ottawa's LRT

A stalled LRT train remains on the tracks near Lees Station late Tuesday afternoon Jan. 10, 2023. OC Transpo says full service on the Confederation Line should resume Tuesday evening. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa) A stalled LRT train remains on the tracks near Lees Station late Tuesday afternoon Jan. 10, 2023. OC Transpo says full service on the Confederation Line should resume Tuesday evening. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa)

The city of Ottawa says Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) is exploring the use of anti-icing chemicals to prevent a repeat of this year's freezing rain-related shutdowns to the LRT.

Trains were halted for six days in early January and two days in early April because of ice buildup on the overhead wires that power the electric trains.

The freezing rain event in January was made worse when the trains that were sent to recover the first two stuck trains became stuck themselves. Staff said a moist fog rising from the Rideau River because of warmer than average temperatures at the time contributed to ice buildup on the line between uOttawa and Hurdman stations.

In a report prepared for the Oct. 12 transit commission meeting, staff say RTM will be testing an anti-ice chemical treatment this month to be prepared for the coming winter. The chemical sticks to the overhead wires and helps prevent ice from building up during freezing rain. Other transit agencies like the TTC in Toronto use this method to prevent freezing rain accretion.

Staff expect the de-icing agent will be applied to "problematic areas" such as the part of the line between Hurdman and uOttawa stations.

Trains will also be outfitted with more de-icing strips on the device that connects to the wires to scrape ice off the line. This can cause additional wear and tear, staff warn, but they will only be outfitted on the trains if freezing rain is anticipated or happening.

RTM is also planning to rent a diesel-powered rail car mover, called a "shunter" to help rescue trains that might become stuck in the event of a power outage. This is expected to be tested this month and deployed this coming winter, if necessary.

In the longer-term, RTM is also looking at adding a heat tracing cable to the contact wire on the overhead power system, but this won't be ready until at least winter of 2024/25.

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