Metro LRT Line 'not a total disaster,' Mayor Don Iveson says

The mayor, the interim city manager, and the city’s transportation manager agree the Metro LRT Line is “not a total disaster,” in the face of widespread criticism of the line.

City staff said despite troubles facing the line, ridership has been strong

A third part consultant hired by the city still can't independently verify the safety of the Metro LRT Line. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

The mayor, the interim city manager, and the city's transportation manager agree the Metro LRT Line is "not a total disaster," in the face of widespread criticism of the line.

In their latest report, city staff said the line's troubled signalling software caused 11 service delays last month, and there still no date for when the line will be fully up and running.

"Anyone dead?" Mayor Don Iveson asked city staff at a council meeting on Tuesday.

"No," transportation manager Dorian Wandzura replied.

"Okay, so this thing is not a total disaster," Iveson said.

Both Wandzura and interim city manager Linda Cochrane agreed. They said despite all the issues facing the line, ridership has been strong.

On average, 10,000 passengers ride the Metro Line per day, which Wandzura said is exactly in line with the city's projections. They hoped to see 13,000 on the line when it's running at full frequency and speed.

Trains were originally supposed to start running from Churchill Station to NAIT in April 2014, but problems with the signalling system postponed the opening several times.

Since September, trains have been operating at reduced frequency at a maximum of 25 km/h, giving operators enough distance to stop if they see something on the tracks.

Wandzura said service delays were caused by the signalling software have been "fairly minimal," and most did not last longer than ten minutes.

He said such problems are normal with a new system, but he expects the contractor, Thales Rail Signalling Solutions, will have them fixed before the software is expanded throughout the rest of the LRT system.

He said the city's relationship with the contractor has improved recently, and they are working together to fix the glitches and get the system fully up and running.

"We've had some complex and difficult discussions with our vendor," Wandzura said.

"We've reached a place where we can move forward together."

Even so, it will be a long time before Thale's software can be implemented, according to Rail Safety Consultants (RSC), an independent auditing company hired by the city to verify the software's safety.

The company finished its initial assessment of the of Thale's safety case and found more work is needed.

RSC is in the process of doing a "deeper audit" and should have a final report of the safety of the line in the spring. 

The line cannot pick up speed before that report is complete.

Thales has repeatedly turned down requests for an interview.

On Tuesday, Thales spokesperson Emmanuelle Bleytou issued a statement, but would only confirm the company is "working with the City of Edmonton to put the system to full service as quickly as possible."

Council will get another update on the Metro Line on Jan. 20th.


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