Ottawa's not alone in LRT grief: other cities facing launch challenges too

New trains in Edmonton, Ottawa and Waterloo, Ont.

The frustrations with Ottawa's new transit system have made national news, but they are certainly not unique.  Other cities launching train systems have struggled too, with some facing more serious problems than the capital.

Edmonton runs a larger and more extensive LRT than Ottawa’s new Confederation Line, but the problems with their new Metro Line have been arguably worse.

The line launched in 2015 with slower and less frequent service than promised because of chronic problems with a switches. Five years later, the city fired the contractor responsible Thales, and escorted their employees off the premises.

In what is a familiar refrain for Ottawa transit users, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson blasted the contractor in April.  “Thales has consistently let Edmontonians down. The signalling system they delivered to the City of Edmonton isn’t complete, is not reliable and has not worked.”

“This is about accountability and standing up for Edmontonians. You deserve a system that works”, Iveson told reporters at the time.    

City councillor Bev Esslinger says public anger has died down, even though the trains are not currently running at full speed. “The launch wasn’t as smooth as we had hoped. We’ve had challenges. It’s not like buying a new car and jumping in it and driving away”, she says.

Similar to Ottawa, Edmonton withheld more than $22 million dollars in payments to Thales.  Both parties are heading to court for what will be a protracted and expensive battle.

Kitchener-Waterloo launched it's ION train in July, months before Ottawa was ready. But Waterloo's service is not as frequent as Ottawa's. Trains run there every 10 minutes, despite a promise at one point that they would run every eight minutes. Like Edmonton's Metro Line, there is no tunnel in Waterloo, and trains often intersect with cars at controlled crossings. 

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