DEADLINE IN DOUBT
LRT line was to be debugged by Jan. 1
The trouble-plagued Metro Line LRT is poised to blow through another deadline after city officials said Tuesday the route might not reach full operation by year’s end as promised.
A memo to councillors last spring gave an “end of 2017” target date to have all deficiencies addressed, trains upgraded and new software installed, the so-called Plan A.
But after signalling errors directed two trains entering NAIT station Saturday to the wrong track, city manager Linda Cochrane said the completion date is in doubt.
“Given that this is November and we had an unplanned activity on the weekend, I’m just wondering how feasible it is,” Cochrane said while updating city council about the incidents.
“I’m worried about the promise made to you about (Plan) A at the end of the year.”
Signalling woes delayed the opening of the Metro Line for more than a year to September 2015 and trains didn’t begin running at full speed until last February.
Although high-tech software is meant to allow trains to run two minutes and 30 seconds apart, with the Metro Line slipping between the Capital Line trains, every third train bound for Clareview is instead being diverted to serve the Metro Line.
While Cochrane insisted the line is safe, she described last weekend’s incidents as “significant.”
Coun. Michael Walters asked whether the line will ever run as designed, saying citizens are questioning if the signal system can be salvaged.
However, Cochrane told him she wants to discuss options during a closed-door council meeting Dec. 5 that will include input from city lawyers.
Coun. Bev Esslinger, whose ward includes the NAIT station, wonders when officials should give up on efforts by signalling contractor Thales Canada to get the new line and the nearly 40-year-old Capital Line trains to interact properly, and find another provider.
“A lot of people I’m talking to think this is the last straw. They’re just tired of what’s going on and want some answers,” Esslinger said.
The city has withheld $17 million in payments to Thales Canada.
In an emailed statement, Dave Beckley, the company’s vicepresident of customer service and commercial operations, said its top priority is safely and effectively implementing the railway system.
“In September 2015, Thales and the City of Edmonton jointly delivered a plan that enabled the Metro Line trains to run while the remainder of the system was being implemented on the Capital Line. As a result, delivery of the remaining work takes longer to implement.”
The Metro Line has never run when it posed a danger because the signalling and safety systems are different, and the safety system has always worked properly, Mayor Don Iveson said.
Rail Safety Consulting, hired to ensure the line is safe, indicated the city overreacted to the weekend’s missteps by slowing trains, but Iveson said staff erred on the side of caution.
The Metro Line LRT continues to have problems interacting properly with the Capital Line trains, though city officials say the line is safe.