Return-to-service testing begins on Ottawa's LRT five weeks after derailment
OTTAWA -- Trains resumed running along the Confederation Line today for the first time in 39 days, but it's still unclear when passengers will be able to board the train.
Just after 3 p.m., CTV News Ottawa's Jeremie Charron spotted an LRT car moving slowly along the track in the area where the train derailed on Sept. 19. The train was running slowly back and forth over the area, slowly increasing speeds during each trip.
In a memo to council, Transit Services general manager Renée Amilcar said testing would begin on Wednesday along the Confederation Line as part of the return-to-service plan, leading up to the resumption of partial service during the first two weeks of November.
"Progress continues to be made towards restoring partial Line 1 service," said Amilcar Wednesday afternoon.
"Under the oversight and ongoing monitoring of the independent rail safety expert, Transportation Research Associates (TRA), RTG technicians have been deployed to the site to perform critical activities including train inspections and tasks related to relaunching service on the system."
Mayor Jim Watson says he is cautiously optimistic train service will resume in the first two weeks of November.
"Today is a good day. One of the doubles is out testing the track, I believe, from point-to-point all throughout the Confederation Line," said Watson after Wednesday's council meeting.
"We'll see how that goes and then they'll obviously continue to put more trains out on a testing basis. We want to see the service resume as quickly as possible but it has to be first-and-foremost safe because we do not risk any member of the public or employees if something does go wrong on the train."
In its return-to-service plan presented last week, Rideau Transit Group said partial service would resume with up to seven trains on Nov. 1. City Manager Steve Kanellakos said that the city anticipated partial service will resume within the first two weeks of November.
The Confederation Line has been out of service since Sept. 19, when an LRT car derailed at Tremblay Station and continued west along the track before stopping near Riverside Drive. The derailed train damaged the car, the track and the LRT infrastructure.
In a memo to council on Tuesday afternoon, Kanellakos said RTG provided a target date of Nov. 29 for full service to resume, which includes 15 trains during the morning rush period and 13 cars in the afternoon.
"The November 29 date provided by RTG is a target and is subject to validation of the vehicle inspection program by TRA and the City. Accordingly, staff anticipates a return to full service is achievable by mid-December," Kanellakos said. "The City has made clear to RTG that the O-Train Confederation Line 1 will only return to service once TRA completes their assessment, and the City accepts their recommendations."
On Wednesday, Amilcar said prior to the resumption of service, the entire system will undergo a "robust testing regime", focusing on three areas:
- Track and infrastructure
- Train testing
- Full system-wide tests
The testing period will continue throughout the following weeks leading up to the resumption of partial service.
"Throughout this testing period, customers will see trains running at different speeds, on different sections of the track, and stopped for long periods of time," said Amilcar.
"Trains will sometimes run the entire track from end-to-end and at other times may only run for short distances on the line. Trains will also often cross over between the two tracks on the line. At times, many technicians will also be on the line as they perform inspections of all components of the track and rail infrastructure."
Amilcar says the testing will be critical to allow TRA, RTG and the city to confirm that all the repairs on the trains, track and infrastructure meet "the quality standards" required for a safe return to service.
The return-to-service plan sees O-Train service resuming with seven trains running, and additional trains added incrementally as they pass inspection until the full compliment of vehicles is available.
Philadelphia-based TRA has been hired by the city to review the return-to-service plan. The consulting firm will present details of the return-to-service plan to council and the media before LRT service resumes.