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A look at lengthy service disruptions that have affected Ottawa’s LRT so far this year

The latest shutdown of Ottawa’s LRT is in its fifth full day and, with officials indicating it will not reopen over the weekend, it is on track to be the longest non-maintenance related shutdown so far this year.

Line 1 service on the O-Train was abruptly halted Monday afternoon when an issue with an axle bearing on one light rail vehicle was discovered during a routine 50,000 km inspection. Since then, service has not resumed, and Transit Services General Manager Renée Amilcar has said it won’t until all LRT vehicle axles are inspected.

Here is a look at some of the service disruptions Ottawa’s LRT has experienced so far in 2023.

A freezing rainstorm on Jan. 4 caused ice to build up on the overhead catenary system that powers the LRT and two trains ground to a halt.

It happened just before midnight, and passengers on the stuck trains waited for about an hour before special constables escorted them to the nearby Hurdman Station to get onto buses.

Two other trains later became stuck as crews attempted to remove ice from the wires and remove one of the previously stuck trains.

There was no service between uOttawa and Tremblay stations during the shutdown, but trains continued to run on either side of them until full service was restored at around 8 p.m. Jan. 10.


A stuck LRT train on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (Jim O’Grady/CTV News Ottawa)

An ice storm in early April caused five trains across the Confederation Line to become stuck, about three months after the first ice storm of the year stranded passengers.

Passengers on the train were trapped until Ottawa firefighters and OC Transpo staff could come and rescue them. The rescue included the need to cut a hole in a fence near one of the trains to allow riders to disembark safely.

OC Transpo shut down the full LRT line between Tunney’s Pasture and Blair stations just before 10 a.m. April 5.

Full service resumed at around 3 p.m. the following day.


A LRT vehicle sits parked on the westbound track of the O-Train line near Lees Avenue on Thursday, April 6, 2023. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa)

The latest unforeseen service disruption is ongoing.

On Monday afternoon, O-Train service was abruptly cancelled after a routine inspection revealed an issue with an axle bearing on one of the trains. Staff found excess grease and a level of movement within the assembly above the standard threshold of what is permissible. It was similar to an issue that was blamed on a previous derailment in 2021.

This prompted OC Transpo to demand an immediate halt to all train service across the entire Confederation Line. Customers were ordered off trains and out of stations and onto R1 buses, which had to be scrambled at the last minute.

Service was halted at around 5 p.m. Monday.

Since then, officials have said that every vehicle must be inspected and the data from a battery of tests must be analyzed before the system is able to resume ferrying passengers.

As of Friday afternoon, 24 of 45 light rail vehicles had undergone inspection, with no issues found. While Amilcar has promised daily updates, she said Friday that more information would be available for transit riders and the public on Monday. There is no timeline for service to resume as of yet.

SERVICE DISRUPTION LENGTH (as of 10 a.m. Saturday): 4 days, 17 hours

An O-Train Line 1 out of service sign at Lees Station. (Peter Szperling/CTV News Ottawa)

There were assessments of the downtown O-Train tunnel ahead of a planned maintenance shutdown in June that halted train service for passengers on two weekends in April and May.

During the closures, Line 1 continued to run between Tunney’s Pasture and Parliament stations in the west, and between Hurdman and Blair stations in the east, but riders had to take R1 buses betwee Hurdman and Lyon stations.

These two closures were to allow crews to assess the scope of repairs to prevent water infiltration in sections of the tunnel, which would take place in June. Full service resumed on the O-Train at 5 a.m. the Monday after the closure.


A sign on the door at Rideau Station notifying riders that a section of the LRT tunnel is closed April 29-30 and May 6-7, 2023. (Ted Raymond/CTV News Ottawa)

Extended maintenance aimed at alleviating some of the issues that have troubled the system since its launch was undertaken in June. While this was a planned and anticipated service disruption, it did still affect how transit users got around the city and required R1 service for parts of the line.

A lot of maintenance activities took place in the evenings and overnight, so as to minimize disruptions, but there were eight days where R1 service was offered over the entire length of the line because of the extent of the closures.

The entire line ran on June 15 as normal.

SERVICE DISRUPTION LENGTH*: 184 hours total (7 days, 16 hours)

O-Train Line 1 closures June 5 to 19. Sign at Rideau Station. (Ted Raymond/CTV News Ottawa)

TOTAL TIME THE LRT SERVICE HAS BEEN OFFLINE IN 2023* (as of 10 a.m. Saturday): 23 days, 14 hours 

*Does not include minor service disruptions due to stopped trains. Includes overnight hours when service is offline by design, except in the case of the June 5-19 partial closures.

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