The City’s largest, most expensive construction project is complete. After five years; the efforts of hundreds of people; thousands of pounds of concrete, steel and rebar; and the patience and understanding of an entire city, construction on the Metro Line is done on schedule.
Now that construction is complete (other than some minor close-out work like landscaping and final road repairs that will have to wait until the snow melts), we’re focused on testing and commissioning. This process involves testing each individual component on the Metro Line (from the overhead wires that power the trains to the security cameras) and then testing the integration of these components to make sure they’re all working together properly. In the coming weeks, we’ll be testing the electrical, radio and tunnel ventilation systems. If you’re a night owl, you may spot us pushing a train up the new line as part of this process.
Everything’s on track for a spring 2014 opening. There’s just one hitch: our signalling system won’t be ready. Our contractor is taking longer than expected to complete the system, and their latest schedule has us opening the new line at year’s end. Unfortunately, we can’t open the Metro Line without it, because it’s critical to the safe operation of the LRT.
Why is the signalling system so critical? Because Metro Line trains will be running between the University of Alberta and NAIT, and we need a new signalling system to safely run Metro Line and Capital Line trains on the same set of tracks. Our contractor is installing a cutting-edge Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling system. The CBTC uses computers on trains that report in to a central controller to pinpoint the exact location of each train and constantly adjust the speed, spacing and routing of trains to prevent any collisions. When it’s fully operational, the CBTC will allow us to safely run peak-time trains every 2.5 minutes through downtown.
It’s pretty impressive stuff. But it’s also really complicated. The contractor has to upgrade hardware in the tracks and in all 94 of our trains. These upgrades are further complicated because the Capital Line still needs to operate, and any available windows of opportunity to do the upgrades have to be shared with routine maintenance and other LRT projects. The real hold-up is the software; it isn’t performing as expected in simulation tests. For safety’s sake, we won’t start testing the software on our LRT network until it’s working properly in the simulations.
We’re pushing our contractor to complete the system as soon as possible, but at the end of the day, it has to be done right so that trains can run safely. Thank you, Edmonton, for bearing with us during this delay.
The Metro Line—a $755-million, 3.3 km LRT extension to NAIT—represents the next major step towards transforming Edmonton’s transportation system. It is expected to add 13,200 weekday riders to Edmonton’s LRT network and link major destinations like NAIT, the Royal Alexandra Hospital and MacEwan University to the rest of the network.