The signalling contractor responsible for Edmonton’s Metro LRT Line has not met the April 30 deadline, city officials said Tuesday.
“Today, we provided Thales with a notice of default under the contract,” said Adam Laughlin, the deputy city manager of integrated infrastructure services.
“Council has given us clear direction that continuing to wait for Thales to deliver on contractual obligations is not acceptable,” he said. “This is a legal step toward an optimal resolution which could still be months away.”
Under the contract, Thales will have an opportunity to respond to the notice of default within five business days.
Laughlin explained this does not yet mean termination of the contract but it eventually could.
“If that schedule is not met, the city will proceed with termination,” he said.
Watch: As the deadline to fix the signalling issues on the Metro Line comes and goes, Edmontonians are still waiting. The city filed a notice of default against the contractor Thales. Vinesh Pratap has more.
City council endorsed this course of action after receiving an in-private update. They also approved of administration investigating alternative operations on the Metro Line, should that become necessary.
“It is frustrating,” Laughlin said. “We, along with Edmontonians, are frustrated. Today is an important step but it is not the final step.”
The signalling contract is worth $55 million. The city has already paid $33 million and will withhold the remaining $22 million.
Laughlin said the city is committed to maintaining current LRT service in the meantime.
Watch: City says notice of default is not immediate termination for Thales
Mayor Don Iveson said this latest step represents a line in the sand.
“We have a contractor that has consistently let down Edmontonians in meeting their contractual obligations to the city,” he said in a statement.
“They have failed to achieve the deadline we set and we cannot continue to wait for a solution that may not arrive. Enough is enough.”
Iveson said since this is a legal process, the city cannot divulge many details.
“My expectation of Thales is that they take this notice of default very seriously and do everything possible to avoid the next steps in our legal process.
“It is important to remember that thousands of people use the Metro Line every day and while we go through these next legal steps, we can assure the public that the line is safe and will continue to run while we work on fixing the signalling system.”
Watch: What does the city hope comes from this notice?
Thales issued a statement on the notice of default Tuesday afternoon.
“The activities of Thales and the city are mutually dependent, demanding timely coordination and decision-making. We remain committed to delivering the next steps of this project for the benefit of Edmontonians and will continue to work, as we always have, per our contractual obligations.”
The Metro LRT Line was supposed to open in April 2014. Four years later, it’s still not running at full speed or frequency.
Watch: Former Edmonton city councillor Kim Krushell sat on council when the Metro Line LRT deal was approved. Krushell says it’s easy to find blame with the City of Edmonton, but asks: What about signalling contractor Thales?
In December, city hall imposed an April 30 deadline for all issues to be dealt with; the decision came after a Nov. 11 incident in which two trains ended up on the same track near the NAIT station.
The $600-million line was delayed several times before it finally opened in September 2015, but even then, it wasn’t running the way it was designed to.
Since 2014, the opening date was pushed back several times because of issues with the Thales signalling system.
The Thales signal system on the Metro LRT is called Communications-Based Train Control or CBTC.
Late last year, city staff made a shocking admission: the technology is best suited for above- or below-ground mass transit. The majority of the Metro Line is at street level.