LRT: Sutcliffe Could Lose His Job: MULVIHILL

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Remember when this whole LRT mess started? Today, we are no further ahead.

Continuing problems with worn bearings that connect the wheel to the axle caused a long shutdown last summer. Engineers used the time to study the problem looking for a root cause. They’re still looking.

According to Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, “… we are working on the root problem and not just the issues that arise from it” and, “with a newly designed axle, we will no longer have the problems that we’ve been experiencing so far.”.

Let’s apply those brakes, shall we?

While most people agree that the lateral force pressure on the wheels as trains round the line’s sharpest curves is the source of the problem, does the question of fixing it mean redesigning the train, changing the track, or both?


OC Transpo partners continue to investigate a more permanent solution. One specific report by Alstom pointed to its new restraining nuts as a key piece of the final solution suggesting the track infrastructure near a number of problem curves should be swapped out for a higher-grade rail. They do not agree that redesigned bearings are the solution.

The National Research Council backed the suggestion of rail replacement after NRC investigators travelled to Le Creusot, France, where Alstom’s research facility is housed. Transit commission chairman Glen Gower quickly pointed out that “the city cannot accept that it doesn’t need a redesign” … the NRC report is “not prescriptive” and won’t necessarily be followed and “everybody is always looking for the root cause and the solution, but there’s a spectrum of measures and a spectrum of opinions.” Say what? Gower can’t be as densely clueless as his predecessor, can he? All indications are he is just that.

The latest city report suggests speed restrictions and guidelines for replacing parts could be loosened given the recent Rideau Transit Group fixes of increased maintenance, lower speeds, restraining rail adjustments, rail lube and pinning a restraining nut. Didn’t the former city manager loosen standards too? Perhaps lessons learned.

The inexplicable root cause remains unknown and despite many assurances from those in charge of passenger safety, the establishment of the root cause is not even on the spectrum.

We have a train that runs on tracks that have too sharp curves that can cause wheel bearings to shatter that can cause trains to derail and we are no further ahead of that magical root cause that periodically rears its ugly head.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe seems to be behind the eight ball showing no signs of understanding the problems nor does he understand the report contents.  Unless Sutcliffe has a trick or two up his sleeve, his time as mayor is limited. Transit commission chairman Gower might want to hand in his resignation before he embarrasses himself further.

The fix is not yet in and billions of dollars later, we are no further ahead.

Donna Mulvihill is a community activist and former hospital coordinator.

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