Double-car service will return to the Confederation Line starting Monday.
The double-car trains will operate on weekdays, Richard Holder, the City of Ottawa’s director of engineering services, said in a memo to councillors on Friday.
“The larger trains will accommodate customer volumes during the busiest times on the system, improving customer comfort,” Holder’s memo said. “Trains will operate approximately every five to six minutes.”
As OC Transpo prepared to return to service after a shutdown last summer, fleet managers turned to single trains to accommodate a new inspection regime that required replacement of axles every 60,000 kilometres, instead of every 175,000 kilometres, as had been the practice.
Trains were pulled from service on July 17 after a routine maintenance inspection found excess grease on an axle. The new inspection regime was introduced to satisfy a safety note provided by Alstom, which manufactures the LRT trains, and Rideau Transit Group, which maintains the rail transit system.
As a result, OC Transpo had to carefully manage the supply of vehicles to ensure there would be enough ready to operate while also meeting the requirements for more frequent wheel assembly replacement.
The move to double-car trains is now possible due to a new measure extending the life of the wheel hub assemblies while continuing to ensure safe operation of the fleet, Holder said.
At a joint transit commission and light rail subcommittee meeting on Dec. 14, transit staff provided an update on a proposal to add pins to the restraining nut on axle hubs to extend their useable life. The new assemblies were installed on a test train that ran up and down the track with a load simulating a car filled with passengers. The test train had to run 1,500 kilometres trouble-free before a decision was made.
The new inspection regime has been complicated by supply-chain issues and has required the careful management of the fleet to sustain service, including using single-car trains, Holder’s memo to councillors added.
“Rideau Transit Maintenance has completed the necessary testing and analysis of the proposed nut pinning solution,” he said. “OC Transpo and Transportation Resource Associates are satisfied that safety requirements have been met and the hub assemblies with the nut pinning solution can now be deployed to in-service vehicles.”
Holder added that the rigorous inspections and maintenance requirements in the safety note remained as a “containment measure” until the vehicle supplier was confident the program could be amended.
A test train will operate during regular service hours over the next couple of months to generate additional data for ongoing safety assurance, allowing for early detection of potential issues.
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