First fully-equipped ION vehicle on the way

The first LRT vehicle replete with its specialized on-board electronics, which includes radios and a system to control traffic lights, is expected in the next few days.

LRT vehicle includes radios, systems to control gates and traffic signals

An LRT vehicle undergoes testing in Kitchener. Regional staff say the LRT should be running in December 2018. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

The first ION vehicle to be fully equipped with radios, antennas​ and systems to control gates and traffic signals is expected to arrive in Waterloo region late this week or early next week.

Regional staff say the work being done to outfit the vehicles with the on-board equipment means the LRT is still on track to begin service in December.

"With this equipment, ION can run at service speeds and at consistent times throughout operations," the report said. "After the equipment is installed, extensive testing needs to be completed by GrandLinq to ensure the system is working correctly."

Regional council received an LRT update during a meeting Wednesday night.

The report noted the first vehicle with the specialized equipment was shipped to the region on Sept. 17 from Kingston. It will allow GrandLinq to continue to test the integration of the tracks and controls systems with the completed vehicle.

"Staff, Bombardier and GrandLinq continue to work towards the goal of achieving start of service in December 2018," the report said.

Eight vehicles in region

All the ION vehicles eventually will have the same on-board equipment installed. There currently are eight vehicles in the region. Three of those are in the process being outfitted with the on-board equipment. That work is expected to be completed later this month or early October.

The other five vehicles are being used for track testing and staff training purposes.

Six assembled vehicles are in Kingston. Their modifications are being completed.

"Assembly is complete on all of the vehicles, good progress is being made in the installation of the specialized equipment, and first vehicles are very close to achieving preliminary acceptance — a significant step in being ready to carry passengers," the report said.

'Good progress is being made'

On a typical day, the report noted, two vehicles are used for testing on various routes and are frequently seen by the public.

As well, there are currently 10 drivers being trained, the first of three sets of vehicle operators to be hired.

This fall, the region will be doing more to educate the public about safety near the LRT and the vehicles. An ION vehicle will be at events including Waterloo Fest on Sept. 6, Oktoberfest in Waterloo on Oct. 4, the University of Waterloo convocation on Oct. 26 and the Christkindl Market in Kitchener on Dec. 7.

"Staff continue to monitor Grandlinq and Bombardier's progress, with a focus on critical items that could impact this goal," of starting service in December.