Councillors grill city administrators over Metro Line LRT safety

Edmonton city councillors grilled administrators Tuesday about the safety of the Metro Line LRT in the wake of two weekend incidents, including one in which a southbound train ended up on the same track as a northbound train.

“How many system failures have we had?” Coun. Mike Nickel asked in Tuesday’s council meeting.

Administrators tried to assure council the line is safe. They said the signalling system didn’t work properly, but that the safety system worked perfectly.

“We’ve always put the safety of our passengers and our citizens first,” city manager Linda Cochrane told the meeting.

The safety system prevents the trains from getting too close to each other. Automatic brakes come on when trains are within 25 metres of each other.

Council to get answers in December

City operations manager Doug Jones said a number of components are in place to make sure trains don’t collide —including the train operators, the control centre and a technical safety system.

Councillors asked staff to come back with definitive answers about the Metro Line’s safety, and are expecting to get the information they need on Dec. 5.

The Metro Line LRT has been plagued with signalling glitches since it came online in 2015.

On Saturday, a train had to back up after it ended up on the same track as one that was ready to head southbound near the NAIT LRT station. No one was hurt in the incident.

Two problems Saturday

While the city worked with LRT software provider Thales to figure out what went wrong with the track switcher, there was another software system malfunction Saturday, said Eddie Robar, the city’s transit service branch manager.

That one caused a service delay of six to seven minutes.

Thales issued a statement Monday saying the company “takes this issue very seriously” and stressed the reliability of the system is a priority.

While the company provided immediate on-the-ground assistance to Edmonton Transit Service following the incidents, the statement insisted passengers weren’t at risk.

“At no time was passenger safety compromised,” the statement said. “We continue to work in close partnership with the City of Edmonton in resolving this issue.”

Prior to the weekend incidents, on Oct. 30 the signalling system failed and the crossing gate lifted as a train was about to cross the intersection of Princess Elizabeth Avenue near the main campus of NAIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. CBC News has also confirmed an incident in July.

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