Company says Metro LRT Line fixed, as city begins testing

The City of Edmonton will now put the problem-plagued Metro Line LRT to the final test, five years after it announced the first delay on the project.

Thales says signalling system fully functional more than 3 years after line opened

The Metro Line was designed to run every five minutes but has been running every 15 minutes because of signalling problems. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

As the deadline arrived Tuesday to fix the signalling system on the Metro LRT, the city announced it will now put the problem-plagued line through a series of tests.

Adam Laughlin, the city's deputy manager for integrated infrastructure services, said it will take several months to test the signalling system to make sure it is working properly.

The deadline came five years to the day after the city announced the first delay on the troubled project.

"There's been a number of concerns we've had related to the performance of the system and throughout the five years," Laughlin said Tuesday. "The confidence I have is going to be found in what happens over the next few months in terms of the evaluation."

Laughlin said he continues to have concerns about whether crossing gate arms will move up and down at the proper times.

In May, the city issued a notice of default on the $55-million signalling contract after Thales Canada Inc. failed to fix the system by council's April 30 deadline. Under that notice, the company committed to a new deadline of Dec. 4.

On Tuesday, Thales announced the signalling system was fully functional. 

Dave Beckley, vice-president for customer service and commercial operations, said the company is confident the line is at 100 per cent.

"Today was the day and we got it all done," he said. "We've been working really hard for a number of years and a really big push at the end, as is always the case. We're pretty confident the system is in a very good position to provide a safe and reliable service."

Beckley said recent performance demonstrations, one on Aug. 18 and one on Nov. 10, showed good results.

"We've done a lot of work to clean up the deficiencies that were found in years gone by."

Beckley said there were complex scenarios involved in testing the line, which runs through 11 pedestrian and traffic crossings between Central station downtown and the stop at NAIT.

The city announced the first delay on the project on Dec. 4, 2013. The line finally opened more than a year and half late. 

Laughlin said Thales won't be directly involved with the testing over the next few months.

"Ultimately, this is the City of Edmonton's evaluation of Thales system, to see if it met their contractual obligations," he said. 
Adam Laughlin, the city's deputy manager of integrated infrastructure services, talked to media Tuesday but didn't commit to a firm timeline for testing the Metro Line. (CBC)

"And if we feel they haven't, then we'll take other steps. The extreme is termination."

The city has been withholding $22 million from the company. Thales won't get paid until the city determines the LRT is working properly.

Laughlin said the Metro Line will be closed to the public for full days while the system is tested. He released no schedule for those closures.

The Metro Line LRT stops at MacEwan University, the Royal Alexandra Hospital and NAIT.

It began operating with restrictions in September 2015. The city said the line has more than 19,000 riders each week day.


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