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City manager takes blame for Metro LRT delays – Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: A city councillor spoke up today, saying he has lost confidence in the city manager. Vinesh Pratap explains.

EDMONTON — Edmonton’s city manager is taking liability for the issues surrounding the Metro LRT Line. Simon Farbrother took the blame during Monday’s Audit Committee meeting.

“There’s a multitude of projects that this city works on, we actually do review them on a regular basis. I’m not sure why we missed this, but we did and at the end of the day that’s my accountability,” Farbrother said following the meeting Monday.

The meeting gave city council the opportunity to question the city manager following the release of an auditor’s report into the many issues that have hindered the $665-million project.

Councillor Mike Nickel stated he doesn’t have confidence in Farbrother and requested council hold a separate meeting to discuss the matter. Mayor Don Iveson countered that one councillor doesn’t represent the feelings of all city council members.

“It’s quite clear to me at this point that the city manager is working closely with the general manager of transportation to make exactly the kinds of changes that the auditor has called for,” said Iveson.

During the meeting, Iveson questioned why verbal updates were given but not written. Transportation Department General Manager Dorian Wandzura said “splitting the contract created unclear responsibilities.”

Three people with the city associated with the project are no longer with the bureaucracy. There has also been a 70 per cent turnover in the transportation department’s leadership, Wandzura told council.

“There have always been challenges with the transportation department’s culture, in my view,” Iveson said, “and a symptom of that is a failure to report up.”

He also provided council with a list of lessons learned as a result of the metro line delays.

Procurement/Best Practices ReviewProject Management Reference GuideEnhanced Project OversightCouncil/Citizen Communication PlanOrganizational Effectiveness Review

In a blog post released last week, Iveson expressed his thoughts regarding the City Auditor’s report. The mayor said Farbrother and Wandzura will be held responsible for making sure appropriate changes are made.

City Council will hold both the City Manager and the General Manager of the Transportation Department accountable for meeting the action plans detailed in the report and ensuring these mistakes are never repeated. Changes have already been made, but more are needed, particularly around culture, and Council will be monitoring this very closely.”

The Metro Line was initially scheduled to open April 2014. Instead, it will open Sept. 6 under an interim signalling system. The line of sight operation is safe and suitable for public service, the project team has promised.

READ MORE: Edmonton Metro LRT set to open for the start of the school year

Line of sight is a railway industry mode of operation that requires a speed restriction, so train operators can come to a stop within half the range of their vision.

The line of sight operation for the Metro Line requires trains to not exceed 25 km/h on the approximately 2 and a half kilometre above ground stretch between MacEwan Station and NAIT Station.

The 25 km/h limit means it will take trains about 15 minutes to travel between Churchill Station and NAIT.

Thales Canada, the company behind the problem-plagued signalling system at the heart of the delay, isn’t supporting the opening of the line under the interim signalling system and argues its system is safe for operation.

READ MORE: Signalling contractor fires back at city over Metro LRT Line opening

The city is working towards full implementation, which will remove the operating restriction and run the LRT at maximum speeds of 50 km/h. Once the Thales signalling system is fully implemented, the Metro Line will offer 10-minute service between the Health Sciences Station near the University of Alberta and NAIT Station.

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Related

  • Communication breakdown, project mismanagement cited in Metro LRT Line audit

  • By the numbers: Seven-year saga of Edmonton’s much-delayed Metro Line LRT