It's spring! Region has 93 days to get LRT into service to meet own deadline

The region has said the LRT would be operational in spring 2019. But now staff say there's 'considerable work that needs to be done' before ION can be launched. One of the major problems is a software glitch that stops the vehicles and requires them to be rebooted, which takes several minutes.

'There is still considerable work that needs to be done,' ION spokesperson says

The region has said the LRT would be operational in spring 2019. Now, a spokesperson for ION says there is 'still considerable work that needs to be done.' (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The region has said the light rail transit system would go into operation in the spring of 2019, but officials still can't provide an exact date for launch.

TJ Flynn is the manager of community relations for ION.

"We continue to target a spring 2019 opening date, however, there is still considerable work that needs to be done to get the vehicle and the system ready for service," Flynn said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

Last November, the region announced the launch date would be delayed to spring because no vehicles would be ready to start service in December.

Spring ends on June 21.

Equipment taking longer

A staff report to councillors in November said the installation of specialized equipment is taking longer than expected. The equipment includes radios, antennas​ and systems to control gates and traffic signals.

That work is mostly done says Thomas Schmidt, the commissioner of transportation and environmental services for the region. There is one speed sensor that still needs to be installed.

The vehicles still need to be tested, integrated into the control system, and there's also an issue with reliability. Schmidt says sometimes during testing, the vehicles will have a glitch and the software used to run them needs to be rebooted.

The reboot takes a few minutes, but Schmidt says it would not be acceptable to make passengers wait and potentially disrupt the transit schedule.

"Those are not issues we want to see customers deal with," he said, noting Bombardier is working through the problems and fixing the software.

'Once we pick that date, we want to hit it'

The LRT vehicles were ordered in August 2013 from Bombardier. Track construction started in August 2014 in uptown Waterloo.

In April 2013, the region said the first phase of the project was expected to be finished and operational by 2017.

Schmidt says Grandlinq also has some construction work and testing that needs to be completed before ION can officially launch.

The region is also working on making sure the Grand River Transit system is ready for the switchover to a feeder grid model in Kitchener and Waterloo once ION is running, and they're also working on getting the electronic fare card, EasyGo, running smoothly.

Schmidt says he knows people are excited to get on the trains. He is, too. He's worked on the project for about 12 years "so I'm quite excited to get the trains going."

He has avoided getting on a test train during training because he wants to wait like everyone else.

"We have had delays ... we can't deny that. We are targetting spring of 2019. We don't have a specific date yet. But our target is to – as soon as we're able to pick that date – be able to come out to both our council and our public and let them know what that date is and then get this train started," Schmidt said.

"Once we pick that date, we want to hit it."


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