The Troy Charter has never been more on the money to describe public transportation in Ottawa this week.
“It’s not an ideal situation.”
OC Transpo’s director of railway operations has pulled the short straw and is publicly the face of a week – long road of transit in this city. It has been up to him to lament the passengers while insisting that the transit system is safe.
“When you have to stop the service during a period that we have right there, it’s frustrating for our riders, it’s frustrating for our staff,” Charter told CBC. “All we want to do is provide a good service.”
This week, it’s easier said than done.
LRT of the rails
It began last Sunday afternoon when a light rail train experiencing problems was parked at Tunney station. Workers decided to move the empty train to the Belfast garage later in the evening as the Confederate line was less busy.
But the operator stopped the train because he felt the ride was “uneven” and “hard” and called in a technician who eventually discovered that a shaft problem had caused some sort of derailment – an incident that not only shut down the LRT system, but attracted the attention of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), not for the first time.
In order to both investigate the incident and get the derailed train back to the garage, the system was shut down. It would take three days to move the train, partly because officials, including those from TSB, wanted to investigate what had happened on the spot.
But part of the delay was due to the Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) – the group that was to keep the Confederation Line in good shape for the next three decades – not having the necessary equipment, city officials said.
A powerful wagon or truck dummy that can hold the wheels up but does not have an engine is used to move trains that are not working, including when derailed. According to OC Transpo officials, RTM not only had to bring the equipment but also test it in the yard before it was used on the main runway.
And of course, moving a train onto a wagon system is not easy. It was finally achieved on Wednesday. The train with two cars then ran on its own — one car pushed the one that was derailed — albeit very slowly, and took hours to travel the approximately 10 miles from Tunney’s to Belfast Farm. The train was accompanied by a dozen people who accompanied the train in the hot, humid weather to ensure that the light rail car did not slip off the carriage.
Once back in the store, that shaft will be disassembled for inspection. RTM is also inspecting the axles of the rest of the fleet with 32 cars before light rail services are restarted, which is not expected at least by the end of this week.
“It depends on the state of their inspections and the root cause analysis of what happened,” he said. “So we are still thinking of a return trip on Friday or Saturday. But I need to make reservations that … these trains must be deregistered and certified as safe to go into operation again.”
On Wednesday night, RTM had not responded to requests for comment on this issue.
With the Confederate line down all week, the city has been running replacement buses, known as the R1 service.
But many passengers went to social media to complain that there was a long wait on the buses. And when they arrived, they were often packed – which is not only uncomfortable during a heat wave, but worrying during a pandemic where we are asked to distance ourselves.
For the 2nd day in a row, the R1 (accordion!) Bus was packed like a can of sardines. Absolutely awe-inspiring ride given the Delta news (yes I’m double waxed). @OC_Transpo must do more to keep riders safe until LRT is back @smwgilbert
& mdash;@ k_reds79
Charter said OC Transpo put more buses on the road and made other schedule changes that alleviated congestion at Wednesday afternoon rush hour.
Meanwhile, the city has said it will not pay RTM its monthly fee, or at least it will hold back a large portion.
In another note this week, Manconi wrote that RTMs’ monthly payment is calculated based on several factors, including vehicle availability, station availability, mileage and other indicators. As a result of this current service outage, deductions from RTM’s monthly payment will be significant. . “
The deduction is expected to amount to a few million dollars.
Double decker from the road
In a separate bus number, OC Transpo pulled 19 double-deckers off the road on Monday after one of them swerved off the road into a ditch. The two passengers and the driver were unharmed.
The transit agency determined that the bus needed a steering adjustment and inspected the other buses of the same model. Of the relatively new double-deckers, manufactured by Alexander Dennis, 12 of them were determined to be safe and they were returned to the road on Wednesday. The remaining seven require steering adjustment and will be repaired over the next few days.
The J523 models were first introduced in July 2020.
This note only came to the Council after I asked about the double-deckers. This city could be so much more transparent with the inhabitants. It’s your city. You deserve to know what’s going on. https://t.co/Setwjdq1LM
Charter said safety is the city’s biggest concern.
“We’re not going to take any cuts,” he said. “We are not going to try to do things quickly. We have to make sure we do it safely and reliably.”
But looking ahead, these recent transit problems may not bode well for equestrianism this fall. Even the official with the enviable task of putting a good front on a bad week by it.
“We are preparing to welcome people back and look forward to seeing increased rides and loads from our customers,” Charter said, “so anything that may shake public confidence we need to be aware of.”
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