City leaning on LRT drivers to catch software glitches

Until signaling issues are resolved on Edmonton's Metro LRT line, the beleaguered route will once again run at reduced speed to give train drivers enough time to spot and override potentially dangerous glitches.

$17-million final payment to be withheld until signalling contractor solves issues, mayor says

Recent signalling failures raised concerns about the safety of the Metro LRT line. (CBC)

Until signaling issues are resolved on Edmonton's Metro LRT line, the beleaguered route will once again run at reduced speed to give train drivers enough time to spot and override potentially dangerous glitches.

"We put the trust in the people who are safely operating those trains every day in the event that the software is malfunctioning," Mayor Don Iveson told CBC News Saturday.

"As far as I understand, the risks around the bugs that are in the system now can be safely overriden by the operator.

"If there was a serious safety issue, we would stop operation of the line."

Don Iveson said the city will withhold a $17 million dollar payment until the Metro LRT line signal contractor solves ongoing software issues. (Sebastien Tanguay/SRC)

A CBC News investigation uncovered at least two signaling failures since Metro Line trains were approved to run at full speed earlier this year.

On Monday, the crossing gate lifted at a busy intersection near the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, as a train approached. CBC News also confirmed another incident in July.

Iveson said he was aware of "some performance challenges" during which operators had to override the system, though he did not specify how many incidents have been reported to city council.

"There have been some instances where the arms haven't worked the way we would like and that's one of the reasons why the operators are there and able to override the system and keep everyone safe."

He blamed Thales, the electronic-system company contracted to provide signalling software for the Metro LRT line.

The city will continue to withhold a $17-million final payment to Thales until the company can resolve the software issues, Iveson said.

"At this point, the major leverage the city has is not only the $17-million holdback, but the reputation of the company," he said.

"They need to be able to deliver on a finished product here, and the longer it takes really the more problematic that is for them.

If the situation becomes too dangerous for train drivers to handle, Iveson said the city will temporarily replace the LRT route with buses.

"Obviously, it's frustrating that it's not working quite right yet," he said.

"But as long as it's operating safe enough and safely for riders, really it's to the contractor to finish their work so that they can receive that final payment and move on to their next job."

With files from Sebastien Tanguay