Edmonton

Time's almost up for Thales to fix Metro Line LRT

Monday is the last day for Thales to fix the signalling system on the Metro Line LRT but there's no word on whether the problems and the city's relationship with the company have been mended.

City council has privately discussed options for dealing with Thales after the April 30th deadline

The Metro Line runs every 15 minutes because of signalling issues when it was designed to run every five. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

Monday is the last day for Thales to fix the signalling system on the Metro Line LRT but there's no word on whether the problems — and the city's relationship with the company — have been mended.

Councillors voted in December to impose a firm deadline on Thales after three years of mishaps on the tracks and at the crossings between Churchill and NAIT stations.

City council warned there would be "consequences" if the system wasn't fixed by May 1. The city has already withheld a $17-million payment to the company until the problems stop.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson hasn't hidden his frustration about past mishaps with the line. On Friday, he remained quiet about the status of the system and the contract with Thales.

"We're continuing to get advice from administration," Iveson told reporters. "We'll have more to say next week about an update on where we're at, at the time of the deadline." 

Mayor Don Iveson wouldn't comment on the city's options ahead of the April 30 deadline for Thales. (CBC)

Mike Tetterington, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union's Edmonton local, said the city should break ties with the company.

"They've had lots of time to fix this problem and it still hasn't been rectified," Tetterington said. "If they can't correct the problems maybe it's time to move on to someone else who can do so."

In November, conductors were asked to take the extra step of calling ahead to the command centre to make sure the track was clear.

That request followed at least 50 signalling mishaps, including two incidents on Nov. 11 when two trains were heading toward each other on the same track.

The conductors had been given a green light when it was supposed to be red, Tetterington said.

"They're nervous," Tetterington said of the conductors. "It puts that extra pressure on them."

The $600-million line has been plagued by problems since it opened more than a year late in 2015. An audit that year revealed the contract with Thales was poorly managed, and that updates and delays weren't communicated properly to city council.

CBC asked Thales for an update but was told to contact the City of Edmonton. 

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.