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LRT will remain offline until all vehicle axles are inspected, all tests completed: Amilcar


There is no timeline for LRT service to resume after the unprecedented decision to abruptly stop the system in the middle of the afternoon Monday. All trains are halted and all stations are closed until further notice.

During a virtual media availability, transit services general manager Renee Amilcar opened by saying that every single axle on every train is being inspected and service will not resume until the inspections are complete. So far, five trains have been inspected, with no issues identified.

There is also a train running on the line that is not in service, but is equipped with specialized tools to measure the forces and loads on the axles of the train. This data must also be fully analyzed before service can resume, Amilcar said.

"Stopping Line 1 service was a difficult decision, but it was the right thing to do," Amilcar said. "We would never jeopardize our customers' safety. Your safety is our top priority. I will be the first person on the train as soon as it resumes service. If the train is not safe, we will not run it."

When asked to estimate how long it might take to complete inspections and testing, Amilcar only said it wouldn't be today, and there would be an update on Wednesday.

She said she did not have any specific reason to believe a derailment or other catastrophic event could have happened, but the stakeholders involved all made the unprecedented decision to stop the system in the middle of the day.

"I have committed to customers that if we have a doubt I will stop the system," she said. "Based on what we found, we have taken the decision because we have that threshold [for axle bearing movement] and we were above that threshold."

Amilcar said it was too soon to consider possible compensation for transit riders if there is an extended closure of the LRT. 

"My first goal is to restore the service and after that we will discuss internally to see if we can do something," she said. "But, you know, the service is provided. It's not by the train, but we are using the buses and we will continue to improve the service and we will continue to work on the root cause analysis to make sure that we can bring back the trains as soon as possible."

Next steps

Here is what OC Transpo says must take place before service can resume:


  • A track inspection from end to end has been completed, with no issues found
  • Later today, a geometrical rail inspection will take place. This inspection will take measurements of key rail infrastructure, like the distance between rails and other key metrics
  • Currently, every axle on every train is being inspected. Vehicle inspections are looking for excess grease and if the wear and tear on the axle is above the expected amount. There have been 5 trains inspected, and no issues have been identified

Instrumented Bogie Tests:

  • Customers may see a train on the track throughout the day. This train is not in service but is equipped with specialized tools to measure the forces and loads on the axles of the train. This provides key data to understand the wear and tear that the wheel hub assembly of the trains may be experiencing and provides the information required to determine root cause and the conditions necessary for a safe return to service.

Return to Service Plan:

  • RTG, Alstom and the City are working on scenarios to resume passenger service
  • Alstom is working to establish the requirements of the safety regime that will allow passenger service to resume
  • All axle hubs will be inspected and data from instrumented bogie testing will be analyzed prior to the return to service plan being finalized. The team is working around the clock to expedite this work.

Additional progress is required in these three key areas before an expected time for safe resumption of service can be provided.

All axles being inspected

Amilcar said in a message to the mayor and city council Monday afternoon that the decision was made in the interest of safety.

"This email is to notify you that, in an abundance of caution, Transit Services is immediately launching R1 service across Line 1, after a routine inspection revealed an issue with a bearing," Amilcar wrote. "More information will be provided soon."

In a second memo later Monday, she said every single axle was undergoing inspection.

"All light rail vehicles are being safely returned to the Maintenance and Storage Facility. This will allow for every single axle to be inspected and checked for any play within the axle hub," she said. "Alstom is conducting inspections of the track."

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) says it is aware of the issue.

"The TSB is aware of the latest OLRT incident. We are currently gathering information and assessing the incident. We are not planning on deploying investigators at this time," a statement from the TSB said.

R1 bus service resumed at 5 a.m. Tuesday with 12 buses providing service every 10 minutes. OC Transpo plans to increase peak service to 28 buses, arriving approximately every 5 minutes, while the closure of the light rail line is in effect.

LRT subcommittee chair Coun. Steve Desroches told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with Patricia Boal on Tuesday morning that council expect a briefing from OC Transpo management and engineers Tuesday afternoon.

"It's exceptionally frustrating… obviously the focus is on the fix and has been since the beginning of this term of council and that will continue to be the theme, is fixing this system so that it's safe and reliable going forward," he said.

Desroches could not provide a timeline for when service might be restored.

Issue similar to those in the past

Amilcar said excess axle grease was discovered during a 50,000 km inspection on one of the vehicles. The issued was found to be "similar to the axle bearing issues that have occurred in the past," the memo said.

"Upon further investigation an axle check was done, and it was determined that the bearing play was over the threshold at which it could stay in operation," she wrote. "The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority and, out of an abundance of caution, Line 1 service was suspended to allow for a complete investigation."

The Aug. 8, 2021 derailment at Tunney's Pasture Station was due to an "undetected catastrophic roller bearing failure" in the axle bearing assembly, the Transportation Safety Board has said. 

The root cause of the issue still hasn't been determined. Desroches says more testing is still required.

"We've had several updates and we've been told that further testing is required to get to the root cause of the problem with the axles and the bearings," he said on CFRA. "It's exceptionally frustrating that it is taking time to do the testing and to get a proper recommendation about how to fix this in the longer term."

There was a second derailment on the line in 2021, about six weeks later, which kept service shut down for 54 days. That one was blamed on a gearbox that came loose because the bolts that keep it in place were not tightened properly. 

Last July, OC Transpo pulled all O-Train vehicles that had travelled more than 175,000 kilometres out of service for additional inspections after a failure was discovered in one of the wheel hub assemblies on a train, an issue that appeared to be different than the one that caused the Aug. 8 derailment.

Service halted abruptly during afternoon rush

Train service was halted just before 5 p.m. R1 buses are replacing LRT service across the entire line from Tunney's Pasture Station to Blair Station.

Customers were told to disembark trains and leave stations to wait for R1 service, which was severely delayed. 

OC Transoo riders attempt to board a bus after Ottawa's Confederation Line LRT was abruptly shut down July 17, 2023, over a safety issue. (Courtesy: Taber Bucknell)

Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo, a former OC Transpo employee, said on Twitter that OC Transpo was likely trying to find buses to support R1 service after the abrupt decision to cancel LRT service.

"As much as operations are trying to find spare buses to run the R1 service, they have to find buses that are nearby to pull that service and get those buses to those locations," he told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

Lo said staff are sensitive to issues with vehicles because of their link to previous derailments.

"There is a heightened sensitivity around it," he said. "This is why the temporary speed restrictions around some of the curves in the east end have remained in effect for so long, to reduce the stress on the wheels. Given the sensitivity of the issue, I think because they found something in one of the vehicles, it's probably better to take that extra caution instead of having something happen while the trains are in service."

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said on Twitter that he is frustrated with the latest interruption to service, but safety must be the priority.

"It’s incredibly frustrating when this happens," he wrote. "But safety and caution must always come first, and we must demand the highest quality standards from the companies manufacturing, maintaining, and fixing the service. With every issue that is identified and fixed by our contractors, we will be one step closer to providing residents with the light rail service they paid for and deserve." Top Stories

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