News / Edmonton

'Out of patience': City gives signalling company deadline to fix Metro Line problems

The embattled LRT has been plagued by issues since first opening in 2015

Capital Line LRT Dec 5

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Capital Line LRT Dec 5

Finally fed up, Edmonton's city council laid down the law Tuesday, giving Thales Rail Signalling Solutions until next April to finally fix the Metro Line.

The LRT line has been plagued with problems since it opened in 2015.

“A deadline is in order at this point because I am out of patience,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

“If they can't get it done by April 30, there will be serious consequences to that.”

Although he would not comment on what the consequences would be, he told reporters they would be "legal in nature."

Background

The Metro Line's signalling system isn't the same as the one on the older Capital Line.

Edmonton was the first city to have the software, known as a communication-based train control (CBTC) system, installed in their trains. Thales was expected to have the system up and running by December 2013.

Instead, they missed deadline after deadline, and now, two years after the line opened to riders, the signalling system still isn't working.

Edmonton's LRT system was planned so a Capital Line train would arrive every five minutes, and a Metro Line every 10 minutes. But since the two signalling systems aren't integrated, that hasn't been possible.

Instead, the Metro Line has been running on what council refers to as ‘plan B’ since fall 2015, and every third Capital Line train is delayed so that a Metro Line train can pass through, and neither runs as frequently as planned.

Safety-related events

The lack of a signalling system has also resulted in safety issues.

A report sent to council last week revealed that there have been 50 safety-related events since the Metro Line opened in 2015, most of them caused by signaling problems.

Six of those were events where passengers were at “increased risk," according to a report.

Three of the six occured during testing, and the latter three happened during regular operating hours. That includes the incident back in November, when two trains ended up on one track outside of NAIT station.

At Tuesday's meeting, city council was clear they'd had enough.

“I think what council did today is a pretty clear line in the sand for Thales to provide the planning and functionality (of the signalling system) so we can start to take the steps to implement,” said Deputy City Manager Adam Laughlin.

Council has also demanded administration prepare a "plan C" for the Metro Line, and look at other signalling options in case Thales fails to meet the deadline.

“We either hire someone else or leverage the expertise that we have in the city to create something,” Laughlin said.

“It could be as simple as signal lights where the train operates but we need to evaluate that, to find the most cost-effective solution if we ever get to that."

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