50 Metro Line mishaps alarming, Edmonton councillor says

More problems with Edmonton’s Metro Line LRT are coming to light in a new report released Friday.

Coun. Mike Nickel is challenging the city on its position that the LRT line is still safe

In five cases, crossing gates or lights on the Metro Line LRT failed to go up or down at the appropriate time, a city report says. (CBC)

A report released Friday reveals more problems with Edmonton's Metro Line LRT, showing at least six major malfunctions — and 44 signaling mishaps — since 2015.

In five cases, crossing gates or lights on the LRT line failed to activate at the proper time, causing "a potentially hazardous situation to exist," the report says.

Coun. Mike Nickel is challenging the city on its position that the line is still safe.

Councillor Mike Nickel has doubts about the Metro Line LRT’s safety after a report listed almost 50 malfunctions. 0:23

In the cases where the gates and lights did not activate, "that means the train was going to go through a live intersection," he said Friday.

"Should we be alarmed? I am." 

In addition to the 44 signalling failures, there were two instances when northbound and southbound trains ended up on the same track Nov. 11.

The city didn't rank these among the major mishaps. 

44 'fail-safe' events

The two incidents prompted council to ask administration for a breakdown of safety-related events since the line went into operation in September 2015.

The city ranked them among 44 "fail-safe" events.

Adam Laughlin, deputy city manager with integrated infrastructure services, described a fail-safe event as a "safe response to an incident."

Despite signalling malfunctions, the "layers of safety built into the system" make sure it's safe to ride the train, he said.

The back-up systems include operators and control room staff, he said.

City manager Linda Cochrane and Adam Laughlin, deputy city manager with integrated infrastructure services, insist the Metro Line LRT is safe to ride. (CBC)

The five instances in which the crossing gates came up or down at the wrong time are called "wrong-side failures." Those, he admitted, are inherently a risk to public safety. 

"It's the potential of a hazardous incident occurring," he admitted. 

The city's overarching message is still that the LRT is safe to ride. 

"I think we need to stop trying to convince people that it's safe," said city manager Linda Cochrane.

The city had engineering consulting firm Rail Safety Consulting do a technical audit of the Thales system, and they deemed it safe, she said. 

Staff kept council in the dark, Nickel says

Statistically speaking, the sheer number of incidents suggests that it is only a matter of time before an accident happens that puts members of the public at risk, he said.

He also questions why city staff did not bring this information to city council earlier.

"Why didn't they keep us apprised of the more operational side of this, given the sensitivity? And now the scope and scale is coming forward, not because of administration's volition but because politicians have started asking questions.

"That is disconcerting." 
Coun. Mike Nickel challenges Edmonton city staff on their idea of safety, after five major situations and 44 mishaps on the Metro Line. (CBC)

The city's Capital Line, which runs between Clareview and Century Park, has also been affected.

"There are no immediate solutions to restoring pre-Metro Line service on the Capital Line without significant impact to Metro Line service," the report said.

City council will discuss the reports at a meeting next week, including whether or not to part ways with Thales, the company that installed the signalling system.