New measure put in place after 2 track signal failures at NAIT LRT station: ‘Let’s just get it fixed’
An Edmonton city councillor is calling for answers and solutions after the latest issue to plague the Metro Line LRT, where one train entered the wrong track.
On Saturday morning, a southbound train entered the northbound track at the NAIT LRT station, where there was a docked train.
“It was about 56 metres from the other train. The operator noticed the train line was occupied and slowed the train to a stop,” ETS branch manager Eddie Robar.
One train backed up until it hit a switch point to get back on the other track.
Robar said there was a second, similar incident in the afternoon.
“The train… got the wrong line assignment. The train didn’t actually cross over the track. It was recognized by control and we had to reverse the train back to reset the system,” he said.
Meantime, the city has put in place a new measure – LRT drivers approaching the NAIT LRT station will now have to call to ensure they have the correct track signal.
Ward 2 councillor Bev Esslinger learned about the morning incident from Global News on Saturday afternoon.
“I was frustrated that this keeps happening. I understand safety is our top priority and the trains are now slow,” she said.
“Enough is enough. Let’s just get it fixed.”
Robar blames a software issue for the blunder.
“We have to find out what the issue is first, fix the issue and the software itself – the coding or whatever is wrong with the software itself,” he said.
The Metro Line LRT has been riddled with issues, even before it opened. The line was originally scheduled to open in April 2014 but it was delayed several times because of issues with the signalling system.
When the line finally opened in September 2015, it only ran at 25 km/h, lower than the full speed of 50 km/h.
By May 2016, trains were allowed to run at full speed except at five intersections.
In February 2017, the Metro Line was at full speed but there were issues integrating it with the Capital Line and frequency was reduced on the Capital Line.
A memo sent to council in May 2017, but only publicly released in July, set a new target to have all deficiencies fixed by the end of 2017.
Esslinger said she doesn’t know whether that is now feasible.
“It’s one of those questions I’d like to ask because that’s what we were told, right? These incidents we’ve had… I think it erodes our confidence.”
On Oct. 30, an arm lifted prematurely near the NAIT LRT station; the backup safety measures kicked in and shut down the train.
Speed restrictions were put into place on Nov. 2.
Esslinger said Edmontonians deserve a system that runs at full speed, at full capacity and is safe.
“This has to be solved. We have to hold the right people accountable. At this point, I want more than answers. I want solutions.”
Robar defends the system of the system, saying back up measures have worked. Though, in the Saturday morning incident, he said the trains did not come close enough to require a safety mechanism to come into play.
“Anytime these issues have come up in the system, the fail-safe on the system itself has worked as intended so the safety side of it is not an issue,” he said.
Despite that, the incident was frightening to hear for some Edmontonians who frequently use the LRT.
“It’s something you don’t really expect,” said Kia Naziri, who takes the LRT almost every day.
“It’s shocking and thank God nothing happened.”
User Karl Schaller, who takes the LRT twice a day to get to work, calls the incident “scary.”
“I’m definitely worried. If the risk is that high and I use it every day… they need to be making improvements to the system and to the technology they use,” he said.
Other riders took news of the incident in stride.
“That definitely does not surprise me that that happened,” said user Kathryn Smith, who takes the LRT twice a day to get to NAIT. “They’ve just had so many issues with the train.”
User Stephanie Monteith rides the LRT three times a week and also said she was not surprised.
“There’s some due diligence missed there. I don’t know what to tell you,” she said.
Mark Tetterington, president of Amalgamated Transit Union 569, said the incident Saturday morning never should have happened.
“It’s very concerning. We just don’t want to have a serious incident happen with our drivers,” he said.
Tetterington said the LRT drivers in his union are feeling upset about the Metro Line.
“I think it’s more frustrating more than anything else that they have to worry about these signal systems failing.”
Tetterington said he wants Thales to fix the signalling issues once and for all.
“[They city] has to review, I guess, overall whether or not Thales is doing an adequate job. To me, I don’t think they are right now,” he said.
“It seems like it’s been plagued right from Day 1. It’s been going on for years now. I just hope we are not talking about this in two years’ time again.”
Global News received the following statement from Thales on Monday:
“Thales takes this issue very seriously. The reliability of our system for the residents of Edmonton is our top priority. Thales provided immediate, on-the-ground assistance to Edmonton Transit Service and is working collaboratively with the City of Edmonton officials.
“At no time was passenger safety compromised. We continue to work in close partnership with the City of Edmonton in resolving this issue.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.