CTV Ottawa - LRT train had already derailed before reaching station but kept going: TSB

By: Ted Raymond

By: Kate Griffin



OTTAWA -- The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the LRT train that derailed west of Tremblay Station on Sunday actually derailed before reaching the station but kept going until it had passed the rail bridge over Riverside Drive.

In a statement Tuesday, the TSB said a motor bogie left the track just before the train reached the station early Sunday afternoon.

"At approximately 12:15 on 19 September 2021, westbound OLRT was proceeding on track 1 when motor bogie 2 on vehicle 1121 derailed as it entered Tremblay Station. The train then departed the station in the derailed condition and continued over the rail bridge that traversed Riverside Drive before striking a signal mast and switch heater that were adjacent to and north of track 1," the TSB said. "Subsequently, the train went into emergency and came to a stop just west of the rail bridge."

This new information was not part of the city's update to the transit commission on Monday. A summary of the information to date, presented in a slide to commissioners by transit operations director Troy Charter only said the train had come to a stop between Tremblay and Hurdman stations at around 12:15 p.m. because one of the sets of wheels had derailed. 

There were 12 passengers and the operator on board at the time. No one was hurt.

On Monday, officials with Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) said the damage caused by the derailment was greater than initially suspected and it could take weeks to repair.

The city's transit commission also approved a plan that would require an independent expert sign off on RTM's return-to-service plan before any trains start running again, even partially.

City not told about TSB's findings until late Tuesday afternoon

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron" Tuesday afternoon, Charter said the information provided by the TSB had not been sent to the city.

"At this point in time, the investigation is still ongoing and that information has not been disclosed or provided to the city yet," he said. "I'm not here to comment on behalf of the TSB, by any means, but that has not been confirmed to us."

OC Transpo general manager John Manconi sent a memo Tuesday afternoon warning of "speculation in the media" about the derailment.

"The investigation is looking at many factors including the vehicle and track infrastructure to determine what occurred. There may be multiple factors that may have contributed to the derailment and all possibilities are being examined. We have not received a definitive determination on the cause of the accident from the investigating bodies," Manconi wrote.

But in a second memo early Tuesday evening, Manconi said his staff had spoken to the TSB about the statement provided to the media.

"We were not made aware of this being released nor were we aware of the content and the specifics which have not been validated by us. The TSB called to apologize that they did not share this in advance or advise us that they would be issuing this information. We are following up with them asking that they share any and all information that is released publicly so that we can keep City Council informed of any developments," he wrote.

OC Transpo doubles R1 bus capacity

With the O-Train out of commission indefinitely, OC Transpo is promising to beef up R1 bus service.

R1 bus service is used to replace the LRT when it's not functioning but riders made note of packed buses on Monday, with little to no room for physical distancing.

In an email Monday evening, Manconi said R1 service would be expanded while the LRT remains out of service.

"Over 80 percent of the buses assigned to the R1 replacement bus service will be high-capacity articulated or double-decker buses," Manconi wrote. "With the assignment of more high-capacity buses, the capacity of the service (Tuesday) will be approximately double what it was (Monday)."

Manconi said service on some other regular routes would be reduced to add capacity to the R1 service.

Passengers who spoke to CTV News on Tuesday said the crowding had decreased, but the buses were still inconvenient.

"Yesterday, when I was travelling, it was pretty much crowded and today it was far better," said Varshini Sundaribabu.

"It's honestly quite a pain because it triples or almost quadruples my commute time to campus," Hope Boyle added.

Repairs could take three weeks

RTM told reporters Monday that it could take three weeks to complete repairs on the damaged part of the line, though service may resume earlier in a partial capacity.

“I think we’re probably looking, to get the entire system back up and running, that’s assuming that we can satisfy everyone that it’s safe to resume service I would say three weeks probably. We could look at running some partial service,” said CEO Mario Guerra.

Options for running partial service could include running a single track around the derailment near Tremblay or running service on part of the line and R1 buses for the eastern portion.

Manconi said Monday that the preliminary investigation suggested that a bracket on the underside of the train that holds a sanding device for use in the winter came loose and could be responsible for the derailment; however, nothing has been conclusively proven at this time.

Passengers expressed frustration Tuesday with the issues.

"Now we're taking Ubers. That's money out of our bank accounts and we're students and we can't afford to take $20 Ubers every day," said Lilli Green.

"Too many issues for something that is costing so much money to the people. It's like, ugh, get it together people!" Therese Benson said.

Councillors call for review of 30-year contract

Some city councillors are again calling for a review the of the city's 30-year contract with RTM.

Speaking on CTV News at Noon on Tuesday, Coun. Catherine McKenney said it's time to take a another look at what was signed nearly 10 years ago.

"We have to look back at that original 2012 contract. We need to open it up and understand how it lines up with this entire system delivery today," they said. "I just cannot believe—and neither can residents of this city—that we have a system that we paid over two billion dollars for that not only doesn't function well but is getting worse after two years."

McKenney had put forward a motion at Monday's transit commission to create two task forces to analyze the full service delivered to date and to advise the city on the way forward, but their motion was voted down.

"I do believe that yes, we did get the cheapest system," McKenney said Tuesday.

"Really, it is an embarrassment. As a transit commissioner, as a city councillor, I accept part of that responsibility but we have to do something. We've got to look back at that contract and we’ve got to look forward to see how we get out of this mess.”

Coun. Diane Deans said Monday that she would like to see the city walk away from the contract with RTM.

"My number one question is, 'How do we get rid of Rideau Transit Maintenance Group?' We have a 30-year contract. They're clearly not maintaining the system to the standards we need. It's time for us to move on and I want to know how we do that," Deans said.

Transit commission chair Coun. Allan Hubley, who once also called for a review of the contract, said Monday that the situation is different now compared to early 2020.

"Last year does not compare to where we're at now," he said. "There's been a lot of progress since last year. Sure, the incident last weekend rattles everybody. It rattles me. But we're going to figure it out."

Manconi said he does not believe the system is unfixable.

"We do not believe we have a lemon. There's nothing that demonstrates or proves that it's unfixable. It is fixable," he said. 

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