METRO MESS

Trouble-plagued LRT line may not be fully op­er­a­tional by year’s end as promised

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - ELISE Stolte and Gor­don KENT

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 2-1/2 min­utes 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.”

The city has with­held $17 mil­lion in pay­ments to Thales Canada.

In an emailed state­ment, Dave Beck­ley, the com­pany’s vice-pres­i­dent 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 over-re­acted to the week­end’s missteps by slow­ing trains, but Ive­son said staff erred on the side of cau­tion.

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.” - Coun. Bev Esslinger

File photos

The Metro Line LRT ex­pe­ri­enced a sig­nalling er­ror on Satur­day which di­rected two trains to the wrong track.

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