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Transit riders must wait until at least Monday for O-Train return-to-service plan

The O-Train will remain out of service through the weekend and on Monday as the investigation continues into the axle bearing issue discovered on one LRT vehicle during a routine inspection.

OC Transpo general manager Renee Amilcar says it will be Monday before a "more comprehensive update" on the return-to-service plan is available from Rideau Transit Group and OC Transpo.

The light-rail transit system was closed during the Monday afternoon rush hour after an issue was discovered during a routine 50,000 km inspection. Amilcar ordered the immediate shutdown of LRT service for inspections on all vehicles and the track.

The axle hub assemblies have been checked on 24 LRT vehicles since Monday, and no issues have been discovered, Amilcar said in a memo to council on Friday afternoon. Rideau Transit Group and OC Transpo have also conducted several runs in "different train and track configurations to simulate real world conditions" on the O-Train line and fitted a train with Smart Bugs to complete runs and captured "additional data" for the investigation.

Amilcar says the remaining 21 vehicles will be checked for "wear and tear" to the axle hub assembly  and "test train and track infrastructure work" will continue.

However, as of Friday afternoon there is no date for the return to service for the LRT system.

"RTG is discussing return to service scenarios with the City," Amilcar said.

"Key data analysis is being conducted to provide additional information for the return to service plan, with a view to providing a more comprehensive update on Monday, which will also outline next steps."

Amilcar says work will continue "around the clock" on all key areas of the investigation into the axle bearing issue.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe will not speculate on a return to service for the O-Train.

"We're talking every single day about what we're learning from the work that's being done by OC Transpo, engineers and the contractors and as soon as we have any sense of when we might be able to restore service we will share that with the public," Sutcliffe said told CTV News Ottawa on Thursday from New York City.

Amilcar has said all trains must be fully inspected before the O-Train returns to service.

"Our number one priority right now is identifying what the problem is, making sure that we can put trains back on the tracks in a safe fashion for our passengers and until we can do that we're going to continue to investigate the issue," Sutcliffe said.

The closure of the LRT system has diverted tens of thousands of commuters onto R1 replacement bus service, which has forced the cancellation of over 100 bus trips a day on regular routes. 

Sutcliffe says he doesn't think OC Transpo overreacted by shutting down the O-Train after the issue on one LRT vehicle was discovered.

"I think we have to act with an abundance of caution; the last thing we want is another derailment or a catastrophic event of that nature," Sutcliffe said.

"I think it is really important that we think of the safety our of passengers; that's one of the recommendations that came out of the inquiry last year. So we need to proceed with an abundance of caution and make sure that before the trains are back in service they are completely safe for our passengers."

Sutcliffe says he shares transit riders' frustration with the continuing issues with the LRT system.

"We should be frustrated; we didn't get the service we paid for and we're going to continue to work hard and hold our contractors accountable and make sure that we have the service we paid for," Sutcliffe said.

"One day, we will have a safe, reliable transit service for the people of Ottawa and this will all be behind this.  I can't tell you when that day may be; we're doing everything we can to make that date as soon as possible. One day it will come that we will have a safe, reliable transit service for our passengers and for our city and we have the service we paid for, but until that day I won't rest in holding our contractors accountable and making sure we're finding solutions to these problems."

Axel being sent to France

Amilcar says "out of tolerance axle hub assembly" discovered during inspection will be assessed by Alstom in France.

Alstom is also sending additional resources for the wheel hub assembly are being deployed to assist RTG and OC Transpo.

R1 service on Albert and Slater streets

As thousands of LRT riders are diverted onto buses, OC Transpo is making changes to the R1 bus routes.

"Our Transit Operations Control Centre is working on finalizing additional R1 route enhancements to ensure we deliver the best possible service to our customers," Amilcar said in a memo on Thursday.

As of Thursday, 36 buses are operating the R1 service during peak periods, up from 20 buses on Monday.

Here is a look at the changes to the bus routes

Starting today, R1 replacement bus service will be travelling along Albert and Slater streets instead of Queen Street.

OC Transpo says for customers, the change means:

  • Westbound R1 buses will run on Albert Street with stops at Bank and Kent
  • Eastbound R1 buses will run on Slater Street with stops at Kent and O’Connor

Amilcar says staff will be at stations to assist customers.

Lees Station

OC Transpo has also made changes to the R1 bus serving Lees Station.

Starting Thursday, OC Transpo introduced a shuttle bus between Lees and Rideau stations.

"This will improve reliability and reduce travel times for customers," Amilcar said.

For customers, this means:

  • Westbound R1 service will run from Blair to Tunney’s Pasture stations, stopping at each station except for Lees Station
  • A shuttle will run between Lees, uOttawa and Rideau stations
  • Customers travelling to Lees Station from the east can connect with the shuttle and Eastbound R1 service at uOttawa Station
  • Eastbound R1 service will continue to serve Lees Station

Sutcliffe in New York

Mayor Sutcliffe spoke with CTV News Ottawa from New York City, where he attended the Bloomberg School for Mayors. The four-day conference started on Sunday.

Sutcliffe said he was invited to the conference, "before we knew there was going to be a problem with the light-rail service in Ottawa."

"I'm in constant and regular and frequent contact with city staff, with city councillors, with the staff in my office – I'm working very hard every single day and there's nothing that I can't do from here that I could do from Ottawa," Sutcliffe said.

"I wish I was there… but I'm working just as hard as I would be if I was in Ottawa and there's absolutely nothing that I can't do from here."

The Bloomberg Harvard City leadership Initiative provides "mayors and senior city leaders with executive education and management training to advance their leadership, strengthen their city halls, and deliver results for communities," according to the website.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Natalie van Rooy Top Stories

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