Cost of Edmonton's Metro Line LRT delays may remain secret: city

The public may never know how much it cost taxpayers due to the debacles that have plagued Edmonton's LRT Metro Line for two years.

The project was initially supposed to be complete in 2014 but it won't be fully operational until 2017

A train on the Metro LRT Line passes by NAIT. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC )

The public will likely never know how much it cost taxpayers due to the debacles that have plagued Edmonton's LRT Metro line for two years.

Integrated infrastructure manager Adam Laughlin said that's because the city is preparing to make a claim against the contractor behind the signalling system, Thales, which has been blamed for the years of delays.

The line was originally supposed to open in 2014. But it has been hit with with so many delays since then city staff still aren't sure when it will be up to full speed. Latest estimates are pegged at early 2017.

Last year, the city hired a third party consultant, Rail Safety Consulting, to audit Thales' safety documents. Rail Safety consultants will work for the city until the line is fully operational.

The cost of the external consultants has never been revealed, as the city says it will likely be part of the claim.

But that claim will not be publicly filed with the courts. Instead, a private dispute resolution process is set out in the city's contract with Thales, according to communications officer Holly Budd.

Budd said the dispute will be judged by a referee mutually agreed upon. If either side is unhappy with the decision, it will go to arbitration.

Value of claim likely won't be made public

That means the value of the claim will "likely" never come to light, she said.

No claim has yet been filed by either the city or Thales.

Laughlin has told councillors they will be privately briefed on the cost of the delays at the end of the year.

He said the contractor may also choose to file a counterclaim. Last August, Thales issued a statement that said it had been "misrepresented" and that "misinformation" has circulated about the new LRT Line.

As for the line itself, the trains currently still do not operate at full speed. In some causes, faults with the signalling system prevent safety arms from lowering as trains approach.

The city hopes trains will move at the 50 km/h they were designed for by late August, and the line will be fully operational by early next year.

City manager Linda Cochrane said the deadlines still make her nervous, given past experience with the project. She called Laughlin an "eternal optimist" for setting those dates.

Cochrane said what gives her comfort is, that for the first time, Thales and the consultant agree on when the work will be done. 

The next update about the progress of the Metro Line is expected in August.