The Metro Line: More than Just a Train Wreck
This picture first caught my eye back in the 1990’s; it was in the office of a major insurance company in Edmonton. Not so coincidentally, it was across the room from a picture of the Titanic. Truth be told I could not think of, nor find a more fitting picture to describe what is happening to a major portion of our LRT system.
Pardon my sarcastic photographic train-failure tie-in, but I find that it not only dispels the myth that insurance professionals have no sense of humor but also leads into the point of today’s blog: the Metro Line. This project has proven to be quite disturbing for many City Councillors and citizens. As a 668 million-dollar project that was supposed to be fully operational in April 2014, we are currently only thinking of running a train with one line under partial operational conditions –keeping our fingers crossed, of course.
Skepticism is well founded and substantiated, especially through the latest findings of the City Auditor who in his latest report concluded the following:
“Based on interviews and documentation we believe that project management was not effective in the areas of Scheduling, Human Resource, and Communications. Contract management principals were also not applied consistently” (1).
In plain speak the report outlines a number of contractor missed deadlines and the apparent unawareness of senior management as to the scope and scale of the problems with the project dating as far back as 2010.
If you are interested in looking for all the ugly details please read the Auditor’s report here: http://sirepub.edmonton.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=1544&doctype=agenda&itemid=46674
These problems in communication and the failure to meet deadlines both led to numerous opening delays. These ups and downs of seemingly imaginative productivity leaves a severe black eye, not just for the administration, but on our City’s reputation. I am quite sure our federal and provincial counter-parts who provided funding towards this project are looking at Council and are wondering just what is going on in Edmonton?
We find the Metro Line expansion now added to the list of ‘caught-Council-with-their-pants-down’ moments, like the 2014 Photo Radar and the Landscaping Deposit Review audits which both showed glaring administrative deficiencies. This leaves me asking the question: does our senior management team really know what is going on under the hood of the operation? Do they understand the mechanics operating together to make these projects move forward? Or do they just close the hood and hope for the best?
We as a Council technically we have only two employees, the City Auditor and the City Manager. The Auditor makes sure that the City Manager and the administration are doing their jobs and offer suggestions on how to more efficiently run the City. The City Manager runs the City and all its operations there-in. So, how is it that on a high profile project like the Metro Line — worth over a half a billion dollars — can the City Manager and other senior administrators be caught unaware over a four year period as to the problems of the Metro Line? Why was it only in the last six months that Council was advised as to the scale and scope of these catastrophic problems?
While we are all frustrated with the Metro Line, there is a much larger picture to be seen here. What else is going on under the hood that we do not know about? How much confidence should be placed in our senior management at this point? Who is being held accountable? And are we as a Council, on behalf of our constituents, satisfied with the administrations answers?