Empty trains overnight part of plan to keep LRT running despite storm

Other tactics include installing carbon strips on trains to scrape ice from overhead wires, applying a de-icing solution to wires, and monitoring switches to ensure trains can “shunt or divert” if necessary.

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OC Transpo’s plan to keep the LRT running smoothly after the first major winter storm of the year once again included empty trains overnight.

With the forecast for the capital region calling for 10 to 20 centimeters of snow and freezing rain, empty trains had to remain running overnight in an effort to keep the tracks clear for the Wednesday morning commute.

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The “storm trains” were to run overnight during the system’s “engineering hours,” said Katrina Camposarcone-Stubbs, public information officer for OC Transpo. Normally, the last run of the Confederation Line would be at 1 a.m. on weekdays and the train would begin running again at 5 a.m.

Snow and ice will be removed naturally with the movement of the train on the tracks, so we simply make sure to have an out-of-service train running throughout the night to ensure there is no buildup when service resumes in the morning Camposarcone-Stubbs said in an interview Tuesday.

Using the empty train to keep the tracks clear was one of several efforts aimed at keeping Wednesday’s trip smooth, he said. Carbon strips have also been installed on trains to scrape ice from overhead wires as trains travel down the line, and workers apply a de-icing solution to the wires to maintain power to the trains. Additionally, teams had to monitor changes to ensure trains could be “avoided or diverted” if necessary.

Camposarcone-Stubbs said those measures were implemented months ago.

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Almost exactly a year ago, a freezing storm stopped eastbound and westbound trains at Lees Station after ice built up on the train’s overhead wires. A third train deployed to rescue stopped trains was also stranded when the overhead catenary broke. Subsequently, the service was partially closed for six days.

After that outage, nightly “storm trains” ran on the LRT ahead of another freezing storm in April, but five trains lost power and the 13-train system came to a complete halt.

On Wednesday morning, OC Transpo buses were required to operate on normal schedules, as the new “severe storm schedule” would only go into effect when the city expected to receive more than 12 inches of snow.

“We don’t anticipate that with this forecast, but that can change,” Camposarcone-Stubbs said.

A memorandum to the mayor and council members of the city of Renée Amilcar, general manager of transit, said crews had been “monitoring, plowing and salting all properties as appropriate since early (Tuesday) morning and will continue overnight into Wednesday to assist with ongoing bus operations.”

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“Seven bus stops are out of service during winter storms,”due to steep hills or grades that make traction difficult during a storm,” the memo said, and “Bus Operations is also securing additional towing services.”

The system’s articulated buses are taken off the road during severe storms.

As for Wednesday morning’s commute, “it’s going to be a challenge,” Camposarcone-Stubbs said. “We ask people to take their time and work patiently.”

OC Transpo’s online transit app would also be updated if bus routes were canceled or delayed, he said.

The Société de Transport de l’Outaouais (STO), based in Gatineau, posted online that several of its Tuesday afternoon rush hour and evening routes would be canceled “due to lack of resources.”

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