New signalling system to be installed on Edmonton’s Metro Line LRT

Edmonton's Metro Line LRT on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Edmonton's Metro Line LRT on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Seven months after the original signalling contractor for the Metro Line LRT was fired, the city says a brand new system will be installed on the line.

Construction and installation of a new fixed-block signalling system is scheduled to begin “soon,” and take about a year to complete, according to a City of Edmonton blog post Thursday.

“This is a major step towards replacing the incomplete Thales signalling system we’ve been using since the Metro Line opened in 2015,” said Bruce Ferguson, branch manager of LRT expansion and renewal.

“The Metro Line will continue to operate safely while this work is completed and then tested.”

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READ MORE: ‘This is the end of the line for Thales’: Contractor fired from Edmonton’s Metro LRT Line

The announcement comes after the city terminated its contract with Thales Canada back in April. Thales’ Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) was meant to work alongside the existing LRT line’s system.

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However, the Metro Line experienced several issues after opening to riders 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: Edmonton’s Metro Line suffers yet another signalling issue: crossing arms come down on green light

“Thales has consistently let Edmontonians down in delivering on their contractual obligations,” Mayor Don Iveson said in April.

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“They are more than five years late completing their signalling system and they have failed to deliver on their commitments to finish their work by Dec. 4 of last year.”

The city is now involved in legal proceedings to recover costs related to the project.

Thales and City of Edmonton point fingers after contractor fired from Metro Line LRT
Thales and City of Edmonton point fingers after contractor fired from Metro Line LRT

Earlier this year, the city hired French company Alstom to install the new signalling system. The company will use a fixed-block system, which has been used on the Capital Line since it opened. The city says this type of system controls trains based on sections of track called blocks. Each block is protected by signals that prevent a train from entering an occupied block.

“Alstom is extending the fixed-block signalling system onto the Metro Line. This system will offer a reliable service without needing manual interventions like slower speeds, which is currently necessary with the incomplete Thales signalling system,” the city’s blog reads.

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“The city has found a way to tighten up train spacing using this tested technology so Metro Line trains can share the same tracks with Capital Line trains downtown.”

READ MORE: Edmonton looking at alternate solution for Metro LRT Line if Thales can’t deliver

The city says Edmontonians should expect to see crews cutting concrete and installing wheel detectors, axle counters and other equipment on the tracks between MacEwan and NAIT stations.

Construction may cause minor changes to bus and LRT schedules, according to the city, but riders will receive advance notice of any disruptions.