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Copper-hunting cable crook strikes Trillium Line, shutting down O-Train service for second day

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A.D. Wilson / Postmedia News

A crook, likely hunting for valuable copper, cut a signal cable on the Trillium Line while the trains were in service during the morning commute Tuesday.

Troy Charter, director of transit operations at Transpo, said trains had been running up until around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday when the signals suddenly stopped functioning.

The incident prompted the travel agency to lose the line and it wasn’t reopened until Wednesday at about 7:30 p.m.

“This is critical infrastructure for our system,” Charter said Wednesday. “The system relies on it to remotely control the switches and to set the stop and go signals for the trains. When we got that notification, the trains immediately stopped and we couldn’t continue with service.”

Charter said Transpo doesn’t want to speculate, but it believes the crook was looking for copper.

“There was some cabling that was cut and removed,” Charter said, but he declined to say where the damage happened for security reasons or if it was in the same place as a similar incident in March 2017.

“We don’t want to invite this from occurring,” Charter said. “It’s highly dangerous for people to be accessing the right-of-way when there’s train movements going on.”

Transpo special constables are working with Ottawa police on the cable heist. Charter said there are closed-circuit TV cameras in the area and any footage will be turned over to police.

The transit agency has been trying to reduce the number of cable-carrying poles along the tracks. The signal cables at various heights descend into housing units that power the system. Charter said by the end of this year Transpo will have eliminated the poles.

Charter didn’t know how much the wire would cost to replace or how much revenue might be lost because of the train outage. Transpo has been running the parallel Route 107 bus service while the train is down.

“For us, it’s the impact to the system the impact to our service and it’s the inconvenience to our customers,” Charter said. “We do immediately set up replacement Route 107 bus service, but the train has proven to be reliable and is very much a value-added part of our transportation network. It’s the loss of service that’s the big impact for us.”

Trillium Line operations started at 6 a.m. Tuesday. The rail service was running fine until the signals went down about 90 minutes later, which suggests the crook might have been taking a big risk while trains were roaring down the track.

“It is highly dangerous and there are trains going through there. We have a very frequent service so it’s very dangerous to do that,” Charter said.

“But the important for us here is the safety features of the system worked and we were immediately notified and unfortunately we’re dealing with inconvenience for customers and it’s taking a while to rectify the problem, but we’ll get the system going as soon as possible.”

Charter couldn’t say if the Trillium Line will be operating again on Wednesday.

It’s one thing to fix the cable, but Transpo needs to run several tests to make sure the signals are working before trains can resume carrying customers.

The Confederation Line LRT, which is scheduled to open in November, uses technology that runs cables underground and a wireless network. There won’t be any overhead wires except for the energized overhead catenary lines that power the trains, Charter said.

“They’re very, very different systems and different measures in place,” Charter said.

“With the Stage 2 of the Trillium Line, with that expansion, and with the work we’ve been doing the past couple of years removing the poles, we believe we’re effectively removing the problem on the Trillium Line.”

jwilling@postmedia.com

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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