Train crash in Singapore has Edmonton city councillors thinking about Metro Line problems
City councillors were shaking their heads after reports about a a crash on a commuter train line in Singapore on Wednesday suggested it was caused by an “inadvertent” disabling of a software system.
Reports by channelnewsasia.com, the New Straits Times and others report the system was equipped by Thales, the same company that is working with the City of Edmonton to rectify problems with the Metro Line.
Councillor Tim Cartmell read the accounts but said he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. He said he wants to make sure this is an apples-to-apples comparison.
“We recognize the name Thales in this, but we don’t know if this is an analogous system or situation or not. So that would be the first question before we get too far down that road. Is this a similar arrangement?”
Channel News Asia reports 36 people were injured in the crash when one train suddenly moved forward and collided with another stationary train.
On Tuesday, Edmonton city councillors were given an update on the city’s problems with the Metro Line and were told the LRT system is safe, although the signalling system is still underperforming three-and-a-half years after it was supposed to be up and running.
Cartmell, whose background is in engineering, said he is looking forward to a technical briefing prior to the next city council meeting on Dec 5., where he hopes to get his questions answered.
“My concern was that those two systems are relying upon the same technical pieces to operate,” he said of what he was after in Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m not sure that they are separate and discreet systems. But administration assured us that they are discreet systems and the safety system is fully operational.”
On Tuesday, city manager Linda Cochrane told council that a third-party consultant, Rail Safety Engineering, had complained that city transportation management had overreacted to a couple of incidents involving the Metro Line over the weekend by having operators run the trains at a slower speed. However, Cartmell said he disagreed.
“The implications of being under-cautious are pretty critical and dramatic,” he said. “So being overly cautious, I don’t think is a criticism that I agree with right now. We clearly have a system that is having difficulty communicating and being controlled, so being over-cautious is not a bad place to be.”
In two instances near the NAIT station on Saturday, trains were on the wrong track. On Nov 3., Edmonton Transit Service branch manager Eddie Robar confirmed two other situations involving the Metro Line – one in October and another in July – where crossing arms meant to block traffic were in the up position as the train was approaching.
Council was told Tuesday that the Metro Line won’t be fully operational by the end of 2017 as was hoped for earlier this year.
The Dec. 5 city council meeting will have an in-camera portion where information from city lawyers will be shared. There will also be an updated written public report, which is expected to be released on Nov. 30 when city council agendas are published.
Global News reached out to Thales for comment.
“The Singapore and Edmonton CBTC systems are different,” said a statement from Dave Beckley, Thales’ Vice President of Customer Service and Commercial Operations. “Thales is aggressively investigating the incident in Singapore.
“At this time, there is no reason to believe that any other Thales supplied systems are affected.”
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