OC Transpo pulls O-Train vehicles out of service for inspection after wheel hub failure on train
OC Transpo pulled all O-Train vehicles that have travelled more than 175,000 kilometres out of service for additional inspections this weekend after a failure was discovered in one of the wheel hub assemblies on a train.
In a memo to council Saturday evening, OC Transpo general manager Renee Amilcar said one LRT vehicle was removed from service for further inspection after an operator reported vibrations.
"The inspection found a failure in one of the wheel hub assemblies," Amilcar said.
"Alstom has indicated that, while this also affects the bearing and axle, it appears to have occurred in a different manner than the previous axle-bearing issue which resulted in the derailment in August 2021."
Amilcar says based on the inspection and as a precaution, all trains with more than 175,000 km have been removed from service to undergo additional inspections, "out of an abundance of caution."
"RTM and Alstom are also conducting in-depth testing to determine the root cause of the failure on the affected wheel hub," Amilcar said, adding OC Transpo and TRA are engaged in the ongoing testing and inspections.
There are currently 10 trains in service, providing service every five to six minutes at stops along the Confederation Line. Amilcar says trains will be returned to service once the inspections are completed and the vehicles are deemed safe.
"Safety of our customers and employees is OC Transpo’s number one priority, and RTM and Alstom have confirmed verbally and by letter that all trains in operation on Line 1 are safe," Amilcar told council.
The incident has been reported to the Transportation Safety Board.
Transit Commission chair Allan Hubley praised the quick actions by the driver and Rideau Transit Group.
"The driver did the right thing by reporting the noise on the track right away; Alstrom, the maintainer for RTM, did the right thing by reporting it to OC and they also reported to the Transportation Safety Board, and they’re taking the proper steps," Hubley said Sunday afternoon.
In June, the Transit Commission was told there was 37 LRT vehicles available for service, with four LRVs unavailable due to maintenance (two out of service for long-term maintenance following the two derailments last year). Each O-Train car operates with two LRT vehicles.
Amilcar says the inspection of all the vehicles will "take time." OC Transpo and Rideau Transit Maintenance are scheduled to provide an update on the situation on Tuesday, once results from the ongoing investigations are available.
Hubley told CTV News Ottawa that Rideau Transit Maintenance and Alstom are switching out the hubs on the vehicles.
"So what they can do is take the hubs off to the side and give it a really thorough investigation, but by putting a new hub on that train, get it back in service very quick," Hubley said, adding more trains are expected to return to service this week.
A transit advocacy group said it appreciated the transparency from OC Transpo and RTM about the issues.
"I think what we’re seeing is OC Transpo being a bit more proactive in getting that information out, trying to reassure riders that this system is safe to run," said Stuart MacKay of Ottawa Transit Riders.
MacKay admits the major issue less than three years after the system launched raises some concerns.
"Now we’re getting these larger mechanical issues involving axels and bearing and so the question that has risen amongst riders is, 'Is the system robust enough? Have we developed a system that is capable of fulfilling it’s responsibilities?'" MacKay said.
"The system has only been running for a few years, does it have the robustness for 10-15 years as we expand to Stage 2 and Stage 3."
The issue with the O-Train vehicle comes as the public inquiry into Ottawa's Light Rail Transit system continues. The commission held 18 days of in-person hearings at the University of Ottawa, and is scheduled to hold a one-day panel of expects on July 28 looking at public-private partnerships.
Commissioner Justice William Hourigan has until Aug. 31 to submit a report and recommendations to the Ontario government, but may request an extension until the end of November.
AUG. 8 DERAILMENT
An O-Train car derailed just outside of Tunney's Pasture Station on Aug. 8, 2021. OC Transpo said the investigation found a problem in the axle bearing assembly as the root cause of the issue. Former transportation services manager John Manconi told council a bolt in the sealed axle bearing moved a small amount, damaging the bearing inside the unit and wheel and causing the axle to come off the track.
Nine cars were pulled out of service for "additional analysis" on the axle assembly as part of the investigation.
The Transportation Safety Board says an analysis of recorded information showed the axle on one of the train's wheels likely failed at around 1:25 p.m. on Aug. 8, somewhere between Cyrville and Blair stations.
"A review of event recorder and vehicle logs showed that (light rail vehicle) 1119 had experienced multiple wheel slip warnings during this time," the TSB said in a rail safety advisory on Sept. 27.
The train was travelling back to the maintenance facility and derailed as it switched tracks near Tunney's Pasture station.
"The No. 3 wheel had severed from the axle due to a previously undetected catastrophic roller bearing failure and subsequent axle journal burn-off," the TSB said.
Roller bearings were later found several kilometres away on the track near uOttawa station.
With files from CTV News Ottawa's Ted Raymond with Colton Praill