On April 4, 2019, the City of Edmonton issued Thales Canada Inc. with a Notice of Termination. Thales committed to completing their work on the Metro Line signalling system by December 4, 2018, but the City has found that the signalling system isn’t ready or reliable.
Metro Line North Schedule
The Metro Line from Churchill Station to NAIT station is operational. Find out the schedule, how to transfer over from Capital line and where you can go.
Metro Line in Operation
December 4 was the deadline for Thales to complete their work on the Metro Line signalling system. Once Thales handed in their work, the City began the process of evaluating it.
“It’s pencils down for Thales today,” said Adam Laughlin, Deputy City Manager, Integrated Infrastructure Services at a media conference on December 4, 2018. “They may be confident in their work, but we have to do our own due diligence to determine if Thales has passed and has met their contractual obligations. It’s important to ensure that the City — and all Edmontonians — has the signalling system that we asked for and were promised.”
The City expects it will take a number of months to complete the evaluation, which will include a review of documentation and field testing. Most of the field testing will take place outside of service hours in order to minimize impacts to Edmonton Transit Service customers, motorists and pedestrians. The City anticipates there will be one-and-a-half days of system-wide LRT closures each month to accommodate testing. These closures will take place on low-service days. Special events will also be a key consideration.
The Metro Line will continue to operate as is, with trains running between Century Park and NAIT stations on a 15-minute schedule. Capital Line trains will continue running between Century Park and Clareview stations on a 5-5-10 minute peak hour schedule.
The City of Edmonton has taken the next step to resolve the Metro Line situation by moving ahead with an alternative signalling plan.
The City is in the process of hiring contractors to install, as early as this fall, an alternative signalling plan that could take the place of the Thales Canada Inc. system if it is not completed or validated.
Thales committed to completing work by December 4, 2018 after the City issued it with a Notice of Default this spring. If Thales meets its deadline, the City can then begin the process of testing and validating the Thales signalling system. It will likely take months to test the Thales system before it can be put into service.
“We continue to work with Thales as they progress towards their December deadline,” said Adam Laughlin, Deputy City Manager, Integrated Infrastructure Services. “However, we need to be prepared if Thales is unsuccessful. The alternative signalling plan provides that solution.”
The Metro Line opened to public service with operating restrictions on September 6, 2015 and has more than 34,000 weekday boardings.
On May 1, 2018, the City of Edmonton issued Thales, the contractor of the Metro Line signalling system, a Notice of Default. Thales failed to meet its April 30, 2018, deadline for contract completion. This started the resolution process under the contract, which may end in termination.
Under the contract, Thales has the opportunity to respond to the Notice of Default.
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.
On December 5, 2017, City Council passed a motion to hold Thales accountable for their April 30, 2018 deadline to deliver Plan A, stating there would be serious consequences if the latest deadline was not met. Plan A represents full operation of the Thales signalling system, with Metro Line trains operating between Health Sciences and NAIT stations as originally intended, and with Capital Line service restored.
Delays and issues with the Thales signalling system meant that the Metro Line has had to operate between Century Park and NAIT stations, often with speed and other service restrictions, since it opened on September 6, 2015.
The signalling system delay has also impacted Capital Line service. The current signalling system won’t allow trains to run closer than 5 minutes apart, which means that Metro Line trains must take the place of one Capital Line train every 15 minutes. This maintains service south of Churchill, but impacts service north of Churchill on the Capital Line as every third train runs at 10 minute intervals.
The City reinstated speed restrictions on the Metro Line after problems with the Thales signalling system caused two trains to end up facing each other on the same set of tracks.
The trains were stopped within 50 metres of each other. No one was hurt. However, the City has reduced train speeds and reinstated other operational restrictions on the Metro Line as a further precaution.
The City of Edmonton has been given the green light by Rail Safety Consulting—an independent safety auditor hired to ensure the Metro Line’s new signalling system is sound—to lift the speed restriction that has been in place at intersections.
The City of Edmonton is reminding commuters to stay safe once Metro Line trains start running at full speed through intersections on Sunday February 19, 2017.
Trains will be moving at speeds of up to 50 km/h through intersections. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are reminded to:
- Obey all traffic signs, signals and gates
- Never stop on the tracks
- Exercise patience, trains may be moving faster, but there will still be waits at intersections along the Metro Line
The lifting of speed restrictions is another step towards full delivery of the signalling system from the contractor, Thales. The next step will be to bring the new signalling system into full operation on the Capital Line, which will allow Metro Line trains to run between the University of Alberta and NAIT as intended. It will also allow Capital service to return to normal, with trains running every 5 minutes between Century Park and Clareview.
The Metro Line will increase speed in several sections of its service area starting on Sunday June 19. This is an important step forward in improving Metro Line LRT operations.
Temporary speed restrictions are still in effect over the roadway crossings which will require the line to slow to 25 km/h over any intersections that meets with traffic. There may be minor adjustments to the schedule to accommodate speed changes.
Pedestrians who cross the Metro Line tracks at 108 Avenue and 113 Avenue will notice the train approaching at a faster speed. Please obey all lights and warning systems, and not attempt to cross the tracks if the train is approaching.
The Metro Line LRT audit report from Rail Safety Consulting has recommended that the Metro Line increase speed in some service areas, but not on at-grade crossings.
The train will run at designed speeds in some areas, but will slow to 25 km/h in 5 areas where the line meets traffic at the roadways.
Changes will be made to the traffic signals at the Princess Elizabeth and 111 Avenue intersections to balance vehicle and train traffic. It’s expected that the signal changes at 111 Avenue will take place in July, while the changes at Princess Elizabeth should take place in August.
Pedestrians are advised to take increased care when using the crossings as train speeds will be increasing between intersections. The City will be issuing a public service announcement when changes are confirmed and notifying pedestrians through signage at the affected crossings.
Full Speed Ahead Dependent on Audit and Reliability Resolution
The City of Edmonton and its advisors are working closely with Thales Rail Signalling Solutions to get the Metro Line operating at full speed, and advancements are being made. Rail Safety Consultants (RSC) has almost completed its audit of Thales’ safety case.
A positive audit report will help the City make the decision about future Metro Line operations. There are reliability issues that must be corrected before the decision will be made to run the line at full speed.
The City of Edmonton is not able to give a specific date for the full speed operation of the Metro Line, but work continues behind the scenes to resolve the remaining issues.
Council Discusses Possibility of Future Grade Separation for Metro Line
Recently, City Council asked Administration to look at possible ideas for future grade separation for the Metro Line, especially as the Blatchford Lands are developed, and more businesses and people move into the area.
On April 13, Council’s Transportation Committee discussed a report presented by Administration that included ideas for tunneling, elevated crossings and changing the alignment of the at-grade crossings.
These ideas were presented for information only, so that Councillors could see the options that could be considered in the future.
No decisions would be made without significant public engagement, and it’s unlikely any changes will be made to the area in the future until funding is provided to extend the Metro Line into the Blatchford lands.
The scenarios discussed range in price from $35 to $95 million.
The Rail Safety Consulting (RSC) audit is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2016. To date, RSC hasn’t found any major issues in their audit, although they do say they have been challenged to find much of the safety case documentation created by Thales.
If RSC’s final report shows there are no major safety issues around the line, the City will consider operating the line at full speed.
There are still some technical items that need to be addressed. These items don’t impact safety, but they do impact the performance of the Metro Line. These include:
- Preemption times: The wait times at intersections between the light going red and the arrival of the train are too long, and are impacting traffic
- Loss of communication: Some incidents of loss of communication between the wayside signal system and the trains have caused trains to stop suddenly
- Warning times: There have been occasions where the signalling system hasn’t given adequate warning time for the arrival of the train, this has not posed a safety issue as the driver is able to stop the train if necessary, but it must be repaired
Thales and the City are in negotiations to correct these and other issues, and to arrive at a parts and maintenance agreement for the signaling system.
The unique design of the Kingsway/Royal Alex LRT station received a Prairie Wood Design Award March 8. The award was presented in the Institutional Wood Design category to Stantec Architecture Ltd. for their creative use of wood as a main structural feature in the station.
Wood was used in the Kingsway/Royal Alex station to complement the steel, glass, and concrete construction while also promoting sustainable architecture.
The award was presented by WoodWORKS!, a national campaign to increase the use of wood in commercial, industrial and institutional construction.
The City was unable to accept the safety certification of the signals system contractor, Thales Rail Signalling Solutions. Rail Safety Consulting (RSC) was hired to complete an audit of Thales’ documentation. Once RSC obtains the necessary information to show the City can accept Thales' safety certification, the Metro Line can begin operating at full speed.
There were some delays and disruptions to service. Reasons for these delays include:
- Planned maintenance
- Rail maintenance issues
- Technical and mechanical issues
The issues were handled quickly and delays were kept to a minimum.
Wait Times Around the Metro Line
The City continued to monitor traffic flow around the Metro Line and make adjustments to traffic signals and ETS schedules to help improve wait times.
Several improvements were made to the traffic signals in the area. These adjustments include longer green light sequences and additional pedestrian crossing times at major intersections and signal changes to improve traffic flow coming in and out of Kingsway Mall. ETS continued to make modifications to affected bus routes.
The ultimate goal is to reach “Plan A” from “Plan B-“.
- Plan A: Full system operation using the Thales Computer-Based Train Control System (CBTC) between NAIT and Churchill and between McKernan/Belgravia and Stadium Stations
- Plan B: Metro Line running at full speed (50 km/h) using the Thales system from Churchill to NAIT with the Capital line operating on the older train control system
- Plan B- : Staged implementation using “line of sight” operations and speed control, in the short term, Metro Line trains will run every 15 minutes between Century Park Station and NAIT Station, operating with reduced speeds (25 km/h) between MacEwan Station and NAIT Station
Pedestrian Signal Changes
The City made a change to the pedestrian signal at 111 Avenue and 106 Street. Another walk cycle was added to reduce pedestrian wait times. Other pedestrian signals were also being analyzed for potential modifications.
ETS Service Changes
To better accommodate the Metro Line, extra buses were added to routes 8, 9 and 130.
Ridership and Traffic Impacts After One Month of Operation
After one month of operation the Metro Line was popular with riders.
Between September 14 to 18.
- Around 1,700 passengers used the line during peak periods
- Around 300 passenger on individual three-car trains in peak periods
Traffic delays were less than projected, partly because drivers made an effort to allow more time for travel or to search for alternate routes. City staff closely monitored the flow of trains, cars, buses and pedestrians in areas served by the Metro Line and made adjustments to keep everyone moving as smoothly as possible.
- Princess Elizabeth Avenue at 106 and 109 streets, and 111 Avenue at 106 Street remained the most congested areas with average wait time of 5 minutes and maximum wait time of 10 minutes for cars and pedestrians
- Kingsway at 104 and 105 Streets had average wait times of 3 minutes and maximum wait times of 5 minutes
- 107 Avenue and 105 Street had wait times of 2 minutes and maximum wait times 3 minutes
Bus routes 8, 9 and 130 experienced delays due to issues around the Kingsway/Royal Alex Transit Centre, and were also impacted by construction activity in other parts of the city. In order to maintain more consistent service for customers, ETS temporarily added extra service to these routes.
City administration gave an update to Transportation Committee about the Metro Line on October 7, 2015.
Ridership and Traffic Impacts After One Week of Operation
After a week of operation the Metro Line worked out a couple of hiccups but otherwise the system operated well and became popular with riders.
There were two incidents of delays in service, one because of a technical issue on the Capital Line, and the other a communication issue with one of the Metro Line trains. Both problems were dealt with quickly and full service was restored.
Traffic congestion problems at intersections along the line were less than expected, thanks in part to drivers who left extra time for travel or search for alternate routes.
To ensure continued convenient service to downtown, NAIT and the University of Alberta ETS
- Added frequency of routes 15, 90 and 133
- Kept a close watch on service, especially near and across the Metro Line
- Identified the source of any delays in bus service and made service adjustments
Intersections along the Metro Line route were monitored. Small changes to traffic signals were made to improve traffic flow. The Metro Line schedule was also adjusted so north and southbound trains could cross intersections at the same time whenever possible, to reduce traffic delays.
The Metro Line opened on Sunday September 6, 2015. In order to open the new LRT line to public service, the City is operating the Metro Line trains every 15 minutes between Century Park Station and NAIT Station.
In the longer term - once the new signalling system is fully operational - Metro Line trains will run at speeds of up to 50 km/h between Health Sciences/Jubilee Station and NAIT Station, as originally designed.
For the first time in Edmonton, two different LRT lines are operating on the same set of tracks.
Adjustments to roadways and fine-tuning traffic signals at Metro Line intersections keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible. Motorists driving in areas around the Metro Line will experience longer wait times at some intersections. However, these intersections are being closely monitored to improve traffic flow and decrease overall traffic impacts. The City also worked closely with emergency services.
The Metro Line was designed with safety features to protect pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit users. These features include signs, signals and crossing protection systems (gates, lights and bells) at intersections and pedestrian crossings.
Building the Metro Line LRT
The North LRT to NAIT was renamed the Metro Line in early 2013 and the new Kingsway/Royal Alex Transit Centre opened in June 2014. Coming in under budget, construction of the Metro Line was completed in time for the planned spring 2014 opening.
Unfortunately, the signalling system was not ready, which prevented the City from opening the Metro Line in 2014.
City Council asked the City Auditor to conduct an audit on the signalling system delay. The audit was presented to Council in summer 2015. Administration also initiated a separate independent safety audit in summer 2015. The City retained an internationally-recognized expert in rail safety auditing to audit the documentation provided by Thales, identify gaps in the documentation and obtain the information the City needs in order to accept Thales’ safety certification.
- 2014: Construction Complete
- 2013: Track and electrical installation
- 2012: Tunnel and LRT stations were under construction, right of way preparations continued on 105 Street reconstruction
- 2010 to 2011: Right of way preparations began (roadwork, building removals, utility relocations, Kingsway road reconstruction, track slab construction)
The Metro Line was $90 million under its estimated $755-million budget. The total cost for the project was $665 million.
- The Province of Alberta funded $437 million
- The Government of Canada funded $100 million
- The City of Edmonton funded $128 million
City Auditor’s Signalling System Report and Administration’s Response
Meeting to report on the Metro Line LRT public communications plan, significant deficiencies related to the project, and developments regarding the status of efforts to open the Metro Line for revenue service.
Metro Line to Open for Start of School Year
The City implemented an approach to the Metro Line operation to open the Metro line to public service on September 6, 2015.
Since July 31, the City worked with (Owner’s Engineer) Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM), to develop an interim signalling solution to allow the Metro Line to operate. The project team developed and tested a ‘line of sight’ operation that was safe and suitable for public service and could be implemented immediately.
- ‘Line of sight’ is a railway industry mode of operation that requires a speed restriction so that train operators can come to a stop within half the range of their vision
- The ‘line of sight’ operation for the Metro Line required trains to not exceed 25 km/h between MacEwan Station and NAIT Station
- Travel time between Churchill and NAIT was approximately 14 minutes
- Work on the independent safety audit continues towards removing the operating restriction and running the Metro Line trains at maximum speeds of 50 km/h
- Once Thales fully implements the signalling system, the Metro Line will run every 10 minutes between Health Sciences/Jubilee Station and NAIT Station, with travel time between Churchill and NAIT being reduced to approximately 7 minutes
- ETS continued high-frequency (every 15 minutes or better) bus service between downtown and NAIT on Routes 8, 9 and 15
- ETS also prepared to put the Ookspress express bus service between downtown and NAIT into immediate service as a contingency
- Operating at a 15-minute frequency during peak periods and evenings
To ensure the Metro Line was safe for public operation the City required certification from its signalling system contractor, Thales Rail Signalling Solutions. The City’s independent engineering consultant completed its review of the documentation supporting Thales’s safety certification for the signalling system.
Due to Thales not providing some essential documentation required for the City to accept the safety certification, the City took the next steps:
- Retained internationally recognized expert in rail safety auditing to audit documentation provided by Thales, identify gaps in documentation and obtain the information the City needs to accept the safety certification
- Explored interim options to bring the Metro Line into public service without using a fully operational communication-based train control signalling system that Thales had been contracted to provide
- Test trains ran during off-peak periods to test the new signalling system
- LRT signals, signs, crossing arms and pedestrian warning bells were in place to keep everyone safe
Construction of the Metro Line was completed on time to accommodate a spring 2014 opening of the new LRT line. Construction issues did not prevent the Metro Line from opening on time. The Metro Line was delayed for more than a year because the signalling contractor had not delivered the system on time.
Bus service began June 29 for the first Metro Line facility. Bus service moved from the Kingsway Transit Centre to the Kingsway/Royal Alex Transit Centre on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Design and construction of the Metro Line was $90-million under its $755-million budget, including land purchases and 20 new light rail vehicles. The Government of Alberta, the Government of Canada and the City of Edmonton financed the Metro Line.
Construction Complete, Signalling System Being Worked On
Construction was completed in time, but the opening of the LRT extension to NAIT was delayed, ultimately, opening in fall 2015.
Funding & Completing Preliminary Design
Funding and the preliminary design of the route was acquired.
The Government of Alberta granted $497-million in capital funding from the Green Transit Incentives Program (Green TRIP) to help build the Metro Line.
Determining How the LRT Will Fit
Council Approves Concept Plan
Preparations begin for LRT tunnel construction below the EPCOR Tower.
Council Approves Funding for Concept Planning and Preliminary Engineering
How it Started
- In 1999 Council approved a Transportation Master Plan that recommended a city-wide high-speed transit system
- In 2004 a study was conducted and recommended high-speed transit was suitable between downtown and NAIT
City Council approved a new criteria for LRT route planning and evaluation. This criteria reflected a shift in the City’s strategic planning direction, as reflected in The Way We Move and The Way We Grow. For LRT and Transit investments, the original goal was to minimize travel times and increase ridership, but the new focus was finding a balance of travel time and shaping land use.
At this time, planning studies were underway for a West LRT line. However, the change in policy direction led to a decision to re-evaluate potential west routes.
In 2009, the City also completed a long-term study to define the future size, scale and operation of Edmonton’s LRT system. The Network Plan calls for the potential development of five LRT lines across the City. For lines that don’t physically connect into the existing system, such as the Valley Line, the Network Plan called for the development of an urban-style LRT. This means the system should have smaller, more frequent stops that are better connected to the surrounding community.
Study Evaluation on High Speed Transit Route Options and Land Use Planning
This report provides a summary of the outcome and recommendations from the Downtown North Edge Development Study that has been completed for the area between 101 Street and 117 Street, and between 105 Avenue and 108 Avenue in the Central McDougall and Queen Mary Park neighbourhoods. The Study was intended to explore opportunities for redevelopment in this general area.