LRT shut down as new bearing issue emerges

The LRT is broken…again. And the city doesn’t know when it will be able to start back up.

Good morning!

Well, maybe not so good. I hate to say it but this newsletter is once again a chronicle of our busted LRT system. We’d gone a good few months without a serious failure. (Less than a month, if you count the rotating shutdowns for maintenance in June.)

It’s kind of hard to put into words how outrageous it is this keeps happening. There’s something clearly wrong with the fundamental design of the system. Whether that’s the trains, or the tracks, or some combination of the two is up for debate, but what is clear is there is something seriously wrong.

Worth saying it explicitly: Train systems should not break and shut down every few months. In a normal system, if a train has a broken part, that one train is fixed, it doesn’t cause an entire line to shut down over and over again. As my colleague Geoff pointed out, this does not happen over in Vancouver.

But in a spot of good news, we managed to hit our fundraising target last month, welcoming 102 new members, beating our goal of 75. A big thank you to every single one of you for supporting us, it truly means a lot!

There’s plenty of news, so let’s get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

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LRT shutdown for indefinite period

Robert Hiltz/Ottawa Lookout

What happened: The entire LRT was shut down Monday evening at rush hour with no warning after a train was discovered to have a damaged bearing, similar to previous problems with the trains. Since then, replacement buses have been running along the length of the LRT.

Response: Frustrating. That’s the word that city and transit officials used again and again about the state of the LRT, which is shut down for an indefinite period. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe tweeted it is “incredibly frustrating” when the train breaks down. The city’s rail manager, Richard Holder, said it was “frustrating for customers” and “frustrating for us as well.”

  • Renée Amilcar, head of transit for the city, changed things up a little. “We understand the disappointment many of you experienced [Monday] evening,” she said.

But amid all the disappointment and the frustration, there were not any answers at a press conference Tuesday. City officials do not know what caused the bearing to break down. They don’t know when trains will be available to run again. And they don’t know when a long-term solution will be ready to fix the problem.

What we do know: During a visual inspection of one of the trains, grease was seen leaking from an axle. Maintenance staff then tested the bearing, and found it to be loose beyond acceptable limits.

  • “Every vehicle was removed from the line and Alstom is investigating every vehicle out of an abundance of caution,” Amilcar told reporters.

Each axle on each train will be inspected for damage before the system returns. By Tuesday afternoon, five trains had been inspected without any further problems discovered.

CTV’s Graham Richardson breaks down the breakdown in this handy video:

Long running problem: The bearings have been a long-running problem. A bearing failure caused the first derailment in August 2021, which the train manufacturer Alstom said was caused by heavy loads on the axle in tight curves on the track. To compensate, the trains have been running at much lower speeds, and bearings are being inspected at frequent intervals.

What’s being done now: The city is using the empty track to run a single train outfitted with special sensors to find out where the problem might have occured. The trains will be run under different loads to try and pinpoint if higher ridership during Bluesfest and Canada Day might have been a factor.

  • The city had been running these tests overnight, but conditions (particularly the heat) are much different during daytime. It’s hoped these current tests with the system shutdown might provide better data.

The city also did a walk-through inspection of the track and found no issues. Holder said they would also do a “digital geometric survey” which will measure the distance between the rails and their height relative to each other along the whole length of the system with a great deal of accuracy.

  • “[That will] form part of the analysis that we can use, hopefully to get to the root cause and start to look at what conditions do we need to have in place for a safe return to service,” Holder said.

Long-term: Two years after the first derailment, the city is still waiting on its own root cause analysis. Amilcar said she expects it to be ready soon, but did not give a date. Until then, officials wouldn’t commit to any particular fix — including a redesign or rebuild of parts of the track — but the hope is the system will one day work.

What it means for service: Until the trains are back in service, R1 bus service is running along the whole line between 5 am and 1 am. During rush hour, it’s aiming for service every five minutes, and every 10 minutes during the rest of the day.

  • Amilcar said OC Transpo is aware of crowding at some stations and is looking at ways to lessen the pressure. She also said that OC Transpo is working with the city to try and speed up service through busy areas.

Where’s the mayor? There were several transit officials on hand to answer technical questions at Tuesday’s press conference, but the mayor was a notable exception. His office said because it was a technical press conference he did not attend. So far his public comments have been confined to his tweet.

  • The Lookout’s attempts to get a short phone interview with Sutcliffe were unsuccessful.

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📉 2.8%: The national inflation rate fell to this level in June, led by drops in gasoline prices and telecom services. It’s not clear yet whether the dip will hold, because the drop is so reliant on items, particularly fuel, with volatile prices. [CBC]

⚖️ $166 million: The amount the provincial government is spending to digitize many court services like documents and virtual hearings. [CBC]

🥵 69: The number of days Ottawa could have a humidex of 35 and above by the end of the century if the world continues to use fossil fuels. If the globe reaches net-zero by 2050, that number would be only 24 days. [CBC]


😺 Two cats were saved from a kitchen fire at a Carleton Heights home by Ottawa firefighters. [CTV]

🍌 A non-profit in Vankleek Hill is selling produce at down right reasonable prices to help residents fight inflation. Blueberries are selling at about $2 a pound, compared to $7 at a supermarket. [CBC]

🎤 Last weekend’s new Renfrew Roots Music Festival looked to draw a younger audience than the bluegrass festival it replaced. The festival focused on local Ottawa Valley artists. [CTV]

🥖 The Caldwell Family Centre in Nepean will have to move its food bank to the City View United Church for one year while it finds new space. The centre has seen the number of people needing food increasing like many other food banks in the city. [CTV]

⚖️ Kevin Ramage of Smiths Falls pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 16 years. He killed his wife Chantale after she asked for a divorce, beating her to death with a hammer. He had been initially charged with first-degree murder, but pleaded to the lesser charge to avoid a trial. [CBC]

🚨 A man from Kingston was killed, and a woman from Ottawa was injured, in a gondola accident at Mont-Tremblant. A drilling machine struck the gondola as it passed. Police have not ruled out negligence in the accident. [CBC]

🚑 A 17-year-old was critically injured in a two-vehicle crash on Roger Stevens Drive west of North Gower. [CTV]

🚰 Maintenance to the Conroy water tower could mean lower water pressure for people in Gloucester-Southgate, River, Capital, and Alta Vista wards. There’s no risk to water cleanliness, but if you find you have no water or air hissing out of your taps, call 311. [CTV]


For this week we’ve got a home that’s a little more topical than usual. This Barrhaven on the Green home happens to be just outside the range of one of last week’s tornadoes. It’s got three bedrooms, three bathrooms, has been recently renovated and now a bit of a story to go with it.


🏗️ An office building downtown could be another conversion to rental units by CLV Group. The developer plans to convert the 11-storey building at 360 Laurier Ave. into a residential building with 139 units. [Ottawa Business Journal]

🚧 The 417 will close again later this month for the construction of a pedestrian bridge between Baxter Road and Queensview Station. The Queensway will close between Woodroffe and Greenbank from July 28 at 11 pm until July 31 at 5 am. [CTV]

☎️ About half of the 911 calls the city received in the first quarter of the year were misdials. About 50,000 calls were made in error to emergency services, most because of an update to smartphones to make calling in an emergency easier.

🚮 With the Trail Road landfill getting close to landfull (sorry), CTV went to the dump to see how trash is handled once it’s picked up at the curb. [CTV]

🌉 The opening of the Chaudière Bridge to traffic has been delayed to Sept. 1. The bridge was originally scheduled to open in May before flooding damaged it, and an infrastructure project was delayed. [CBC]

🔌 A brief but strong storm swept through town yesterday evening, leaving about 2,000 customers without power. [Twitter]

  • Director James Cameron was in town to open up a new exhibit on his deep sea adventures at the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. [CTV]

  • Is this your dog? She’s been seen running loose near Bank and Gladstone. [Reddit]

  • Cheese is great, but local cheese is better. Check out this local producer making world-class cheeses.

  • Looking for a nice bike ride? Ottawa by bike has plenty of suggestions for routes for all skill levels. [Ottawa By Bike]

  • Next month a local veteran of the Second World War will reunite with a child he saved during the conflict in Holland. [CTV]

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