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Signalling contractor fires back at city over Metro LRT Line opening

WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton taxpayers are caught in the middle, trying to figure out who to believe in the ongoing saga of the long-delayed Metro LRT Line. Vinesh Pratap reports.

EDMONTON – The signalling contractor for Edmonton’s beleaguered Metro Line isn’t supporting the opening of the new LRT line to NAIT.

Last week, the City of Edmonton announced the Metro Line will open modified service on Sunday, Sept. 6. Operators won’t rely on the signalling system entirely, but go by what they can see ahead, and their speeds will be limited to no more than 25 km/h between MacEwan and NAIT stations.

“As the manner and method of this scheme have not been shared with us, nor have we received any indication as to the extent our system will be involved in this operation, Thales is unable to endorse or support this service starting September 6th,” read a Thales statement released Wednesday.

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Last week, the city also released a report indicating there was a complete system failure of the signalling system on June 2nd.

An independent safety consultant has been brought in to verify the work of the Thales. The consultant is expected to have an initial assessment in place within the next six weeks. But it could take up to six months for the company to identify the problems and to mitigate them.

Thales’ stated it’s been misrepresented and misinformation has been released regarding the Metro Line issues.

The company said it doesn’t understand the City of Edmonton’s position that the signal operating system is unsafe because it hasn’t been notified of any safety issues or deficiencies in its design, implementation, or the Safety Case for the system.

“If the use of the Thales system is contemplated starting September 6th (which still has to be confirmed) with an imposed 25 kp/h speed limit, it’s important to understand that the speed limitation will be entered into and enforced by the Thales system. The implication being then that somehow the Thales system is safe at 25 kp/h, but not above. This displays a complete lack of understanding of the Thales system. The speed is enforced the same way whether it is 25 kp/h or at the line speed.”

The city says it found gaps in documentation and in process during a spot audit of the signalling system.

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“We finally got to the spot where the engineers said we just have not seen enough documented evidence to support the work Thales has done and gave us the advice to move into service,” said Dorian Wandzura, General Manager, Transportation.

City council believes the line will be safe under the modified service as has been indicated by city administration, Ward 3 Councillor Dave Loken said.

“It’s rather rich of Thales to make a statement like this when they’ve missed every deadline conceivable in this mess,” added Loken.

The Metro Line was initially scheduled to open April 2014.