Edmonton

Metro LRT gets green light to run full speed through intersections

The Metro LRT line will soon be running at full speed. Trains will run at 50 km/h through intersections starting Sunday, Feb. 19.

Trains will be running at 50 km/h through intersections starting Sunday

Since Sept. 6, 2015, the city has been forced to run the trains at half speed due to safety issues caused by software provided by the signalling system contractor, Thales. (CBC)

The Metro LRT Line will soon be running at full speed.

The City of Edmonton said Wednesday the line — plagued by setbacks long before and after its Sept. 6, 2015 opening — will be running at 50 km/h through intersections starting Sunday, Feb. 19.

Since the Metro Line's opening, the city has been forced to run the trains at half speed due to safety issues caused by software provided by the signalling system contractor, Thales.

City staff and council originally hoped to have a solution in place by the end of 2015.

An independent safety auditor hired to ensure the LRT's signalling system is sound has now given the line the green light to lift the speed restriction through intersections.

The city says lifting the speed restriction is another step towards a fully-functioning signalling system for the Metro line.

"This will allow us to move toward to the next step, which is getting to what we originally were hoping to get... an integrated system with the Capital Line and the Metro Line," deputy city manager Adam Laughlin said.

Laughlin said there's still work to do to get the Metro Line to full performance, which he said the city is hoping to have happen sometime in 2017.

"If there's something we've learned from this is the overlay of a newer software system with an older software system, they don't react well sometimes," he said.

Mayor Don Iveson said this latest development is a major step forward.

"This was a complicated process that required a lot of technical collaboration between the city and the vendor and ultimately some tough work to hold them accountable to deliver what they had committed to," he said.

Iveson said the city continues to hold back the final payment to Thales, contractor of the signalling system, until the Metro Line is operating at full capacity.

Commuters remain skeptical

Metro Line riders were excited by the news Wednesday. 

Abdul Naveed, a full-time student at NAIT, takes the train to school every day, although he doesn't always get there on time.

He's glad to hear the train is picking up speed.

"It takes forever to get to NAIT from McEwan. It's really very slow," he said. "I will love if it will go fast."

Student Abdul Naveed says he's looking forward to a faster Metro Line LRT. (CBC)

Gurav Sharma is from Vancouver and studies programming at NAIT. He lives in south Edmonton, so he drives to Southgate station to take the Metro LRT Line to NAIT.

Commuting on Vancouver's SkyTrain was fast, he said. Coming to Edmonton, where commuting on the Metro Line took longer, was a bit of an adjustment.

"It's significantly slower. You feel like your day is kind of wasted," Sharma said.

He's skeptical the Metro Line will function better, even at full speed.

"It would be great, it would be good to see how it turns out. But we'll see," he said.

After years of delays to the line, student Chris Edwards is also a little hesitant to get excited about the increased speed. 

"I've heard this before. It was supposed to start, what, the end of October?" he said. "It just keeps getting pushed back. I'm not holding my breath."

Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are reminded to obey traffic signs, signals and gates and to never stop on the LRT tracks.

The city also advises drivers and others to have patience — the trains may be moving faster, but there will still be waits at intersections along the LRT line.

After years of delays, student Chris Edwards isn't holding his breath the Metro LRT Line will actually pick up speed on Sunday. (CBC)

With files from Nola Keeler

now