LRT dead­lines mired in le­gal squab­bles, Ive­son says

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - ELISE STOLTE

Mayor Don Ive­son pleaded for pub­lic pa­tience on the Metro Line LRT file Wed­nes­day, say­ing even the next dead­line for Thales Canada is tied up in le­gal wran­gling.

“We’re as frus­trated as any­one,” he said, open­ing up a lit­tle af­ter an­other closed-door ses­sion on con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Thales was given one fi­nal chance to get the sig­nalling sys­tem work­ing prop­erty on Ed­mon­ton’s troubled light rail line, and for weeks, re­porters have been ask­ing for a date, or even con­fir­ma­tion of whether Thales’ new sched­ule has been ac­cepted.

It’s just not black and white, Ive­son replied.

“It’s com­pli­cated. It’s tied up in a lot of le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tion right now on what they make of our no­tice of de­fault.

“We ask for every­one’s pa­tience that we’re do­ing our best to ne­go­ti­ate this; we’re hold­ing the con­trac­tor ac­count­able. There’s lots of le­gal back and forth here.”

Thales fin­ished a sys­tem-wide test of the sig­nalling sys­tem Sun­day. Ive­son said pas­sen­gers can ex­pect more of that in the short term. He said the city did not ask how the test went be­cause it has been fo­cused on the con­tract and find­ing an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion if Thales can’t de­liver.

“We’re work­ing re­ally hard to make sure we have res­o­lu­tion on this one way or an­other by the end of the year,” Ive­son said, promis­ing more de­tails about that al­ter­nate so­lu­tion will be re­leased in the fall.

All coun­cil de­bates on the topic since De­cem­ber have been in pri­vate.

“We’d love to be able to tell you all the gory de­tails of what’s hap­pen­ing, but that would com­pro­mise our le­gal po­si­tion,” Ive­son said. “We have a le­gal strat­egy and we have to keep our cards close to the chest.”

Thales Canada of­fi­cials have said they are very close to get­ting the Metro Line sig­nals run­ning prop­erly in the down­town tun­nel, the fi­nal step to restor­ing train fre­quency and declar­ing the project com­plete.

The line be­tween down­town and NAIT is now run­ning at full speed.

Once the high-tech, ra­dio-fre­quency based sig­nal sys­tem works in the down­town tun­nel, trains will be able to run within 21/2 min­utes of each other. That will al­low Metro Line trains to weave be­tween trains on the ex­ist­ing Cap­i­tal Line.

Cur­rent op­er­a­tion has one out of three trains des­tined for north­east Ed­mon­ton peel off to serve NAIT in­stead. The com­pany has suc­cess­fully retro­fit­ted 40-year-old train cars and adapted heavy sub­way tech­nol­ogy for an at-grade light rail sys­tem.

PUB­LIC UP­DATE SOUGHT

Coun. An­drew Knack says he still hopes the city can re­lease a pub­lic up­date be­fore the sum­mer re­cess, not wait for the fall. He’s been one of the main voices push­ing for more open­ness on this file.

City of­fi­cials no longer even iden­tify when coun­cil is de­bat­ing this sub­ject in pri­vate. They now list all con­tract up­dates gener­i­cally on the coun­cil agenda, some­times list­ing up to three uniden­ti­fied “con­trac­tual up­dates.”

Knack said the other con­trac­tual up­date dis­cussed Wed­nes­day was not an­other project go­ing off the rails. It was a hu­man re­sources con­tract for one of coun­cil’s two em­ploy­ees.

SHAUGHN BUTTS/FILES

Once the high-tech, ra­dio-fre­quency-based LRT sig­nal sys­tem works in the down­town tun­nel, trains will be able to run within 21/2 min­utes of each other.

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