EDMONTON – Thales, the company responsible for delivering the signalling system for Edmonton’s Metro LRT line, has been fired by the city.
During a press conference, Thales officials said the city notified them by phone and mail of the termination hours before their employees were escorted off the work site earlier this month.
“We’re not aware of what might have motivated the termination,” Thales commercial operations vice-president David Beckley said at the media conference. “We don’t know when, about proceeding with a different scheme, so I don’t want to speculate what might have motivated it at that time.”
But city officials did not mince words about the termination.
“This is the end of the line for Thales,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “They have consistently let Edmontonians down in delivering on their contractual obligations. This was their last and final chance. It’s time to move forward without Thales. It’s time to move forward with a different signalling system that will deliver the LRT service Edmontonians expect and deserve.”
Thales told the city it could complete work on the system by December, but the city claims the signalling system still doesn’t work, even under ideal conditions.
The December deadline was announced after the city issued Thales a Notice of Default on May 1, 2018. After the deadline came and went the city conducted extensive field testing, concluding the Thales system still couldn’t keep trains on schedule, it states.
“These sorts of issues shouldn’t be showing up in a signalling system that is supposed to be complete,” said city manager Linda Cochrane in a media release. “After more than five years of delays, it is clear that Thales cannot deliver the signalling system we asked for and were promised, so we have issued them with a Notice of Termination. We will always hold our contractors to account. Thales has failed us. We have to defend the rights and investments of Edmontonians.”
Iveson said the city intends to go after all money it has paid to Thales. He said the contract totals roughly $50 million.
Beckley maintains the problem lies with city leadership.
“Despite these extraordinary efforts, Thales continued to witness a fundamental lack of leadership from the City of Edmonton on this project,” said Beckley in a release. “Thales will not be a scapegoat for the city’s lack of experience and understanding of CBTC systems. It is this type of challenging work environment that contributed to the failure of this infrastructure project, shortchanging Edmontonians and ultimately eroding trust in the LRT.”
City officials explained despite the termination, the incomplete Thales signalling system the city has been using since the line opened in 2015 will still be used for the time being. The city plans to continue to work on its alternative signalling strategy that will replace the Thales signalling system.
But the Metro Line will continue to operate safely, the city stated.
The Metro Line began operating with restrictions on Sept. 6, 2015 and has more than 34,000 riders per weekday.