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Edmonton acknowledges ‘unreliability’ of signalling system after issues disrupt Metro Line LRT

Click to play video: 'More issues with Metro LRT Line signalling cause delays' More issues with Metro LRT Line signalling cause delays
WATCH ABOVE: A network issue with the Thales LRT signalling system forced replacement bus service to take over Friday morning. As Julia Wong reports, it highlights the unreliability of the system. – Feb 8, 2019

A Thales signalling issue created delays and disruptions for Edmonton LRT customers, as well as the general public, on Friday morning.

It is the latest in a series of issues affecting the problem-plagued Metro Line and comes two days before scheduled testing of the Thales signalling system.

Romar Duco, a NAIT student and LRT customer, said the signalling issues Friday created some headaches for his commute to school.

READ MORE: Councillor wants Edmonton LRT stations open 24 hours during extreme cold

“I was actually already late for classes so with that disruption, I was even more late for class,” he said.

Craig McKeown, ETS director of engineering and maintenance, said there was a network issue.

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“There were problems with the trains communicating, understanding their positioning so trains were put into manual mode and moved to the stations,” he said.

“There wasn’t any direct safety issues that we’ve observed so far [Friday] morning. But certainly there was a lot of odd behaviour. Specifically you’d see gate arms coming up and down sporadically so driver behaviour and pedestrian behaviour might have been impacted.”

Ryan Checkel, a NAIT student and LRT customer, said he moved to a bus after the driver of his LRT train announced there was a signalling failure, but the issues with the gates ultimately delayed him.

“The signals at 111 Avenue and then 106 Street, they were going up and down randomly. That caused a traffic hassle and it took more than 45 minutes to get [to the NAIT LRT station] from Kingsway station,” he said.

“It’s not the first time I’ve been inconvenienced by the LRT but this is probably the most significant.”

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McKeown said there was an issue similar to Friday’s back in 2014.

“With this network problem, the way the system will communicate with the gate arms, this has happened previously. We’re still trying to figure out the actual root cause. We’re working with the contractor Thales,” he said.

The city said the issues were fixed and service restored at around noon on Friday.

“Specifically a network switch was turned off – a specific device was turned off to mitigate some of the information problems in Thales’s underlying network problem so that resolved the issue for now,” McKeown said.

Earlier this year, the city issued a notice of default to Thales.

A new timetable was established to fix the remaining issues with the system, and the system was handed over to the city on Dec. 4, 2018. While Thales said the system is ready to go, the city continues to conduct its own testing.

RELATED: City emails reveal frustration, concern after Edmonton LRT trains end up on wrong track

On Sunday, Edmontonians will see trains running but will not be permitted to board; buses will replace LRT service for the whole day.

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The problem-plagued Metro Line has experienced several issues since it opened more than a year late in September 2015, including crossing arms coming down on green lights and trains heading in opposite directions on the same set of tracks.

READ MORE: Issues continue to plague Metro Line LRT, as train enters wrong track

Global News asked McKeown whether confidence in the system is up in the air following Friday’s incident.

“A problem like this is something that would be considered along with all of the test results as a whole. Our test program is scheduled to run for several months,” he said, adding testing of the system will continue through the first quarter of 2019.

McKeown reiterated how the city’s testing will ensure residents get the product that they paid for; Global News asked whether Friday’s incident, one of many Edmontonians have seen over the years, demonstrates that the city is not getting what it paid for.

“When there’s planned outages like this and when there’s problems, this speaks to the unreliability of the system that we see so far,” he said.

READ MORE: Edmonton will spend months testing Metro LRT Line signal system; Thales says it’s ready

In a statement to Global News, Thales said it continues to have a team on-site to support the Metro Line LRT.

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“While the system reacted safely, we are working together with ETS to determine the cause of this interruption,” the statement reads.

WATCH BELOW (Dec. 4, 2018): The City of Edmonton’s deadline for the Metro LRT Line signal issues to be fixed by Thales has arrived. Vinesh Pratap reports live from Edmonton city hall on some of the unanswered questions and where we go from here.
Click to play video: 'Edmonton Metro Line signalling system deadline leaves many unanswered questions' Edmonton Metro Line signalling system deadline leaves many unanswered questions
Edmonton Metro Line signalling system deadline leaves many unanswered questions – Dec 4, 2018

– With files from Karen Bartko, Emily Mertz, Kirby Bourne

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