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New signal malfunctions on the Metro LRT Line Saturday that put a train on the wrong track have left one city councillor “absolutely frustrated.”
“I want a solution to this so we’re not here again,” Ward 2 Coun. Bev Esslinger said Sunday. “We’re going to have some difficult conversations, ask some of those difficult questions.”
She’s pushing to discuss the train line’s beleaguered signal system at a Tuesday city council to learn council’s options. The Metro Line ends in Esslinger’s north-side ward.
On Saturday, the software telling the LRT operator which track to use at NAIT station failed twice as Metro trains approached the end of the line, Edmonton Transit Service branch manager Eddie Robar said Sunday.
At around 6:30 a.m. Saturday, the signal misdirected a driver leaving Kingsway station onto a track at NAIT station where a train was already sitting, he said. As soon as the driver saw another train ahead of him, he stopped, Robar said. Even if he hadn’t, trains are equipped with a fail-safe system that automatically shuts down the engine if it is too close to another train.
The driver reversed the train until it could switch tracks, he said. No one was injured, and the delay to passengers was brief, he said.
A second problem with the signal system occurred at 2 p.m. Saturday, and delayed two trains for between seven and nine minutes.
Once again, the software directed the driver down the wrong track approaching NAIT. Already mindful of the problem, the driver didn’t switch tracks. Backing the train up and restarting its computer took some time, though.
As a precaution, all drivers approaching NAIT station are now calling ahead to a control centre to double-check their track assignments at NAIT, Robar said.
It’s a particularly frustrating development for Robar, who’d hoped all kinks would be worked out with the glitchy system by the end of 2017. The track assignment issue was one of the early failings of the software — a problem he thought the contractor had fixed.
“Why it came up again, we don’t know,” he said.
Thales, the company that provided the signal system for the Metro Line, is investigating the incidents, along with city contractors.
“These deficiencies are quality issues, not safety issues,” said a written statement from the city.
The problem doesn’t affect Capital Line trains, which use a different signal system built by General Electric, Robar said.
Metro Line trains are already running at reduced speed while the signal company investigates an October incident, in which the arms lifted before a train had passed through a level crossing near NAIT.
In that incident, a fail-safe mechanism also stopped the train before it reached the road.
In July, another crossing gate malfunctioned by coming down too slowly as an LRT approached, causing the driver to manually brake. It took until the end of August to have a fix in place for that problem, Robar said.
Workers and students rely on the Metro Line — it must run properly, Esslinger said.
“People are wondering, ‘Why can’t we make this work? Is this going to happen with every future line?’ “
The snags prevent transit from running trains as frequently as Robar would like. The plan was to have Capital and Metro trains alternating through downtown tunnels every 2 1/2 minutes during peak hours. Now, Metro Line trains can run at most every 10 minutes, instead of every five.
Signalling woes delayed the opening of the Metro Line, which was supposed to be up and running in April 2014. It was delayed until September 2015, and trains did not begin running at full speed until last February.
A September report from the city said dealing with the LRT signal system foibles are taking so much staff time, the project is expected to have a cost overrun.
Councillors have said the matter will likely end up in court.
This article first appeared on edmontonjournal.com
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