Hundreds of Edmontonians lined up bright and early to be one of the first to catch the Valley Line Southeast LRT inaugural run at 5:15 a.m.
“I think there were a lot of Edmonontians who really understood that the Valley Line is about making history and being a part of that first public train is being a part of that history,” said Mike Kunicki, a self-professed train enthusiast.
Cheers could be heard coming from the train as it pulled out of the 102nd Street Station Saturday morning. The platform was filled with about 300 people. Passengers brought cake and champagne and cut red ribbons to celebrate. The long-delayed line finally opened to passengers nearly three years after it was originally supposed to.
“I want to thank Edmontonians for their patience, it’s been a long journey for us, it’s been a long journey for them as well,” said Bruce Ferguson, branch manager for LRT Expansion and Renewal with the City of Edmonton. “I just hope they enjoy the LRT network that we’re so excited to launch today.”
“We wanted to be on this party train,” said Dan Spence. Spence and his wife brought their three-year-old daughter along for the ride because they feel it’s important to teach her about public transit.
“It’s just really exciting to be part of the first ride on the Valley Line, it’s been highly anticipated,” said Sara Spence.
The 13-kilometre southeast leg of the Valley Line is part of the first stage of construction and connects Mill Woods to the downtown core. The southeast leg includes 11 stops. The first day of operation saw no major issues.
The line had been scheduled to open in December 2020 but has faced multiple delays, including cracks in piers that support the elevated portion of the track and the need for signaling cables to be replaced.
The Valley Line was built through a public-private partnership and TransEd is the private industry consortium contracted to build and operate the southeast leg. TransEd is responsible for any costs incurred because of delays and is only entitled to be paid 50 per cent of the total construction contract value prior to the line opening. Once open, TransEd will receive a payment equal to 16.7 per cent of the construction value.
In a statement last month, TransEd said the southeast leg “has been independently certified by professional engineers, a safety auditor and an independent — professionally qualified — certifier.”
“This has been a long journey, with challenges and detours, but we’re confident in the system we’ve built,” said TransEd Partners CEO Ronald Joncas. “Our focus has always been, and will continue to be, delivering a safe, reliable system to Edmontonians.
“This is an amazing day for us. The Valley Line has been in the making for about 15 years now,” Ferguson added. “This is the culmination of an incredible vision that started many years ago.”
Despite all of the delays, Edmontonians are happy to see the trains finally running.
“I wanted to be a part of this because I’ve been to other cities with well-connected transit systems, like Toronto, like Vancouver – and I believe this is bringing Edmonton up to those levels,” added Kunicki.
“I’ve just been really excited about it. I mean they started construction on it when I was kid,” said passenger Ethan Woodruff. “I wasn’t expecting there to be completely full train cars, front to back. When we got off at the last stop everyone was chanting LRT.”