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LRT towing effort fails, further damaging overhead wire and extending closure

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The partial closure of the LRT is continuing into its third day after repair efforts Saturday morning caused further damage to the system for the third time since the breakdown.

According to the latest OC Transpo update early Saturday, Confederation Line trains continue to run on two loops: between Blair and Tremblay stations in the east and between Tunney’s Pasture and uOttawa stations in the west.

R1 bus service remains in place between St-Laurent and Rideau stations.

OC Transpo does not yet have an estimated time for full service to be restored.

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In the update, transit services general manager Renée Amilcar said crews successfully removed ice from the overhead wires Friday night.

But when Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) sent a train at low speed to tow one of the immobilized trains, it instead caused additional damage to the overhead wire, Amilcar wrote.

3rd time repair attempts caused more damage

After the initial stoppage, the wire was first damaged Thursday when crews attempted to move one of the immobilized trains from Lees station to a maintenance facility.

The towing attempt Saturday morning was the second time since then that RTM had sent a train into that section of the track and the second time it resulted in damage to the wire.

The first time RTM sent a train with a special attachment called a winter carbon strip to remove ice from the overhead wire. The train was unsuccessful in removing the ice buildup and caused further damage to a short section of the wire which Amilcar said would require repairs.

“RTM is now conducting a thorough inspection of that entire section of the OCS [Overhead Catenary System] before further attempts are made to move any trains in and out of that area,” Amilcar wrote on Saturday.

Amilcar added OC Transpo is bringing in “additional external oversight” to closely monitor RTM’s work. The new oversight will supplement the existing oversight firm TRA Inc. that OC Transpo hired in Oct. 2021.

‘Inordinate’ number of incidents

Stuart MacKay, a board member with transit advocacy group Ottawa Transit Riders, said he believes “an inordinate” number of incidents have occurred along the stretch between uOttawa and Tremblay stations.

In addition to the current stoppage, since Sept. 2021 service along that section of rail has been disrupted by a lightning strike, a broken wire, and a derailment.

“I think we have to start having some serious questions about that stretch of track,” MacKay said. “Are we doing everything in terms of preventative measures?”

Regular LRT passenger Gabriel White was forced to take an R1 replacement bus on his way to work Saturday.

Gabriel White waits for an R1 replacement bus at platform B outside the Rideau Centre on Jan. 7, 2022.
Gabriel White waits for an R1 replacement bus outside the Rideau Centre on Saturday. (Guy Quenneville/CBC News)

Speaking to CBC at a bus stop outside the Rideau Centre, White said the train is an important part of his routine commute from Gatineau to the St. Laurent Shopping Centre.

“I depend very much on these trains,” he said. “They have to put the train back on service. It is more efficient, and it is more time-saving.”

Out of service since Wednesday

Two out-of-service trains near Lees station have prevented any trains from running through the section of track between uOttawa and Hurdman stations since Wednesday night.

A sign outside the uOttawa LRT station warns passengers O-Train Line 1 service is not available due to a damaged overhead wire on Jan. 7, 2022.
A sign outside the uOttawa LRT station warns passengers that O-Train Line 1 service is not available due to a damaged overhead wire. (Guy Quenneville/CBC News)

Memos from the city and a Friday afternoon news conference that included the CEO of the track maintenance group explained the cascading set of problems.

A freezing rain warning Wednesday night saw ice begin to fall by 10 p.m. at the international airport, according to Environment Canada.

Video tweeted just after 11 p.m. showed bright flashes and sparks around the system near Hurdman station, which the city said can happen in challenging weather and aren’t necessarily a safety risk.

An overhead wire droops down toward a light rail train.
A broken wire on the overhead power system for Ottawa’s Confederation Line on Friday. (David Bates/Radio-Canada)

Two trains stopped around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday between Lees and Hurdman stations. Amilcar said at the time the stoppage was because of ice buildup on the power system.

Rideau Transit Maintenance CEO Mario Guerra said when the trains stopped, more ice built up on the equipment to the point trains couldn’t get through.

Guerra said Friday after the ice was removed —  which has now happened — the power system would need to be repaired, the two stopped trains removed, and the system tested to ensure trains can run safely.

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Uber brings back ride share for some Canadian cities — but under a new name – Global News

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Uber brings back ride share for some Canadian cities — but under a new name  Global NewsView Full Coverage on Google News

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'Not telling us the truth': NSP customers complain utility isn't transparent about outages – CBC.ca

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Tiny wines find home in B.C.’s market, as Canadians consider reducing consumption

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VANCOUVER — Wine lovers have growing options on the shelf to enjoy their favourite beverage as producers in B.C. offer smaller container sizes.

Multiple British Columbia wineries over the last several years have begun offering their product in smaller, single-serve cans and bottles.

Along with making wine more attractive to those looking to toss some in a backpack or sip on the golf course, the petite containers leave wineries with options for a potential shift in mindset as Canadians discuss the health benefits of reducing alcohol consumption.

Vancouver-based wine consultant Kurtis Kolt said he’s watched the segment of the wine industry offering smaller bottles and cans “explode” over the last several years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were meeting outdoors in parks and beaches and looking for something more portable to take with them.

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“You’re not taking a hit on quality, you know? In fact, if someone is only going to be having a glass or two, you’re cracking a can and it’s completely fresh, guaranteed,” he said.

It’s also an advantage for people who want to drink less, he said.

“It’s much less of a commitment to crack open a can or a small bottle or a smaller vessel than it is to open a bottle,” he said.

“Then you have to decide how quickly you’re going to go through it or end up dumping some out if you don’t finish it.”

Last month, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction released a report funded by Health Canada saying no amount of alcohol is safe and those who consume up to two standard drinks per week face a low health risk.

That’s a significant change from the centre’s 2011 advice that said having 15 drinks per week for men and 10 drinks per week for women was low risk.

Health Canada has said it is reviewing the report.

Charlie Baessler, the managing partner at Corcelettes Estate Winery in the southern Interior, said his winery’s Santé en Cannette sparkling wine in a can was released in 2020 as a reduced alcohol, reduced sugar, low-calorie option.

“We’ve kind of gone above and beyond to attract a bit of a younger, millennial-type market segment with a fun design concept of the can and sparkling, low alcohol — all these things that have been recently a big item on the news,” he said.

Santé en Cannette is a nine per cent wine and reducing the alcohol was a way to reduce its calories, he said. The can also makes it attractive for events like a picnic or golf, is recyclable, and makes it easier for restaurants that might want to offer sparkling wine by the glass without opening an entire bottle.

At the same time, the lower alcohol content makes it an option for people who might want a glass of wine without feeling the same effect that comes from a higher alcohol content, he said.

“So the health is clearly one incentive, but I think more importantly, so was being able to enjoy a locally made product of B.C. from a boutique winery, dare I say, with a mimosa at 11 o’clock and not ruin your day,” he said.

Baessler said the winery has doubled production since the product was first released to about 30,000 cans a year, which they expect to match this year.

He said there’s naturally a market for the product but he doesn’t expect it to compete with the higher-alcohol wine.

“So this isn’t our Holy Grail. This is something that we do for fun and we’ll never compete, or never distract, from what is our core line of riper, higher-alcohol wine,” he said.

Jeff Guignard, executive director of B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents bars, pubs and private liquor stores, said the industry has seen a shift in consumers wanting options that are more convenient.

“It’s not a massive change in consumer behaviour but it is a definitely a noticeable one, which is why you see big companies responding to it,” he said.

Guignard said the latest CCSA report is creating an increased awareness and desire to become educated about responsible consumption choices, which is a good thing, but he adds it’s important for people to look at the relative risk of what they’re doing.

“If you’re eating fast food three meals a day, I don’t think having a beer or not is going to be the single most important determinant of your health,” he said.

“But from a consumer perspective, as consumer preferences change, of course beverage manufacturers respond with different packaging or different products, the same way you’ve seen in the last five years, a large number of low-alcohol or no-alcohol beverages being introduced to the market.”

While he won’t predict how much the market share could grow, Guignard said non-alcoholic beverages and low-alcoholic beverages will continue to be a significant piece of the market.

“I don’t know if it’s reached its peak or if it will grow. I just expect it to be part of the market for now on.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2023.

 

Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press

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