Global News has learned that, mere weeks before an April 30 deadline the city gave to signalling contractor Thales to fix issues, there was yet another track issue near the NAIT LRT station involving two trains almost ending up on the same track.
The incident took place April 2 at 6:31 a.m., according to city spokesperson Holly Budd.
A northbound train was leaving Kingsway station as another train was stopped at the NAIT station on the southbound track.
“The control room saw the northbound train was being routed onto the same track as the stopped train at NAIT,” Budd said.
The operator was alerted and the train was stopped. Budd said the trains did not end up on the same track and would have been roughly 250 to 300 metres apart if they had been.
“The driver returned the train to Kingsway, the switches were changed and both trains returned to schedule,” Budd said.
The city said a software issue is responsible for the error and added Thales is investigating.
As with the other incidents that happened in November 2017, the city is not calling the track error a critical safety failure.
“This is a reliability issue, not a safety issue,” Budd said.
Global News reached out to Thales for a response and received this statement:
“A series of routing errors occurred on April 2. These errors were not considered safety incidents as the safety envelope between the trains was not compromised. The root cause of the error has been identified and a solution implemented.”
The April 2 incidents come a few months after two separate incidents on Nov. 11, 2017 at the NAIT LRT station where trains heading in opposite directions ended up on the same track and a gate arm did not activate as a train tried to leave the station.
The latest problem to plague the Metro Line LRT comes to light the day after a Global News investigation that showed how city spokespeople, transit managers and directors and Thales scrambled behind-the-scenes to respond to the wrong-track incidents. Global News poured through more than 300 pages of emails and discovered there was internal frustration with the situation, concern over how the media was going to respond, a push for public messaging about how there were no delays and disagreements between staffers that the incidents were not being classified as a critical safety failure.
The city did not make the November 2017 incidents public and did not disclose the April 2018 incident until Global News made inquiries. At this point, it isn’t clear how many near misses there may have been between Nov. 11, 2017 and April 2, 2018 and how many incidents may have taken place since April 2.
Global News asked the city specifically about how many similar incidents have transpired since Nov. 11, 2017 but was not given a clear answer.
“There have been reliability issues that are managed by the current operating restrictions,” Budd said.
The Metro LRT Line was supposed to open in April 2014. Four years later, it’s still not running at full speed or frequency.
In Dec. 2017, Edmonton city council set the April 30, 2018 deadline for Thales to fix its signalling issues. The decision came after the Nov. 11, 2017 incidents.
Earlier this week, city officials said Thales had not met the deadline and served the company with a notice of default.
Thales responded Wednesday with a statement saying it’s disappointed with the city of Edmonton’s notice and comments made by the city while speaking to the media last week.
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