Overhaul of signal system is three years behind schedule and $98M over budget: report
The replacement of the aging signal system along Line 1 is three years behind schedule and nearly $100 million over budget, according to a new report that will go before the TTC board next week.
The installation of the new Automatic Train Control system was initially supposed to be completed near the end of 2019 but the project now isn’t slated to be finished until September, 2022.
The budget for the project has also risen by $98 million to an estimated $661 million. That money was already included in the TTC capital budget approved by city council in March.
The 30-page report from TTC Chief Capital Officer Susan Reed Tanaka that will be considered next week says that the cost overruns are mostly the result of the delays to the project and the associated need for additional staffing resources.
About nine months of those delays are the result on an operational review which found that large subway closures between St. Clair and St. Clair West stations are “overly disruptive” to customers and should be replaced by smaller but more frequent closures.
A further 18 months in delays, meanwhile, resulted from a decision to split the “extremely complex” work at both Wilson Yard and Davisville Yard into three phases each, so as not to interfere with the dozens of trains that leave both facilities for the start of service each morning.
The report also says that there were three months of delays resulting from the need to have those involved in overhauling the signal system place their “exclusive focus” on the Line 1 subway extension while it was constructed. Finally, there were another two months in delays due to the loss of a pair of planned subway closures when some unionized TTC workers stopped accepting overtime amid a labour dispute.
“To provide context of the work required, installation activities include installing new cable paths and new multiple runs of fibre and copper cables along 78 kilometers of track, many of which have no splices,” Tanaka’s report states. “The ATC system is very complex and the installation, testing and commissioning activities can only be performed during non-revenue hours or scheduled subway closures.”
About a dozen subway closures required per year
The TTC’s existing signal system has been in place since the subway opened in 1954 and uses “fixed block” technology, which essentially divides the system into numerous sections and prevents multiple trains from entering any given section at one time.
The new ATC system will, however, provide “real-time central train control with precise train location,” allowing for more frequent service.
The staff report says that the new signal system is already in place between Vaughan Metropolitan Station and Dupont Station, where it has resulted in a six per cent increase in the number of trains able to travel along the line per hour.
It says that once fully complete, it will allow 31 trains to travel through Yonge-Bloor Station per hour during the morning rush hour compared to 25 now, temporarily addressing capacity issues at that station.
“Based on current forecasting, the ridership demand in the southbound direction at Yonge-Bloor in the AM weekday peak in 2023 will reach 31.3 trains per hour, or 34,400 passengers per hour, per direction. With the planned network improvements, 31 trains per hour is expected to provide sufficient capacity through to 2026,” the staff report notes.
TTC says it is confident in new timeline, budget
The report says that the $98 million in cost overruns includes $22 million in additional TTC staffing resources, $45 million for additional consultants and contractors that are imbedded in the project team and $14 million in costs related to providing shuttle bus service during the additional subway closures that are now required to get the project done.
The report estimates that in order for the project to be completed by 2022, there will need to be an average of 12 subway closures per year.
A statement provided by the TTC on Friday morning says that a months-long review directed by incoming CEO Rick Leary in mid-2018 initially revealed that “revisions to the ATC project made after the original schedule was drafted were going to extend the timeline and add costs.”
“We are confident the new schedule and additional funds will result in the project’s completion on Line 1 in 2022,” the statement says. “The ATC system provides the TTC with the ability to run a more reliable service for our customers with fewer delays and the ability to run trains closer together to increase capacity on the line and reduce crowding at the busiest times of day.”
The timeline provided by TTC staff says that the new system will be fully installed between Dupont and St Patrick stations by May of this year and then between St. Patrick and Queen stations by February, 2020.