Rendering Courtesy of CDPQ Infra
Montreal’s historic LRT will be extended to become one of the largest systems of its kind in the world. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) announced the extension to the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM) light rail line would add 32km of rail line and 32 integrated stations to the original project to support development in the east end of the city.
New Investment, More Jobs
The project comes with a hefty $10 billion price tag and will create around 9,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase. Half of the costs should be covered by CDPQ, with the rest split between provincial and federal governments.
“I am very happy that today, we are fulfilling one of our major promises for Montréal’s east end. We are announcing the largest investment ever made in public transit in Québec, with major economic benefits,” said Quebec Premier François Legault in a statement.
Once finished, it’s expected to serve 133,000 riders per day. The fully electric system is projected to save the city significant emissions output.
“With REM de l’Est, we will provide users with comfortable trips that are priced fairly and, most importantly, operate twice as fast as anything currently available,” said François Bonnardel, Quebec’s minister of transport.
The latest two lines will run on a new elevated track—one down the centre of René-Lévesque Boulevard and the other alongside Notre-Dame Street East. Construction on the latest project is expected to start by 2023 and could be in use by 2029.
Meanwhile, the first portion of the light rail project is nearly set for operation. Trains could be running from the South Shore to Bonaventure-Central Station by 2022, with other routes operational through the following two years. Completion timelines have been pushed out as a result of pandemic shutdowns. Construction began in the spring of 2018 and has created an estimated 34,000 jobs in Quebec.
Creating Intrigue and Delay
Construction of the first lines of the LRT makes use of the Mount Royal rail tunnel. Built during WWI and used for commuter trains, the Mount Royal Tunnel was closed in May 2020 to allow for the replacement of rails and building new stations along the way. Modernization of the tunnel includes reinforcing rock overtop of the tunnel, installing new lighting and telecommunication systems and power supply as well as replacing ventilation shafts.
Commuters affected by the tunnel’s closure have access to shuttle buses during the transitional phase. While some residents dissatisfied with alternative transit attempted to launch a class-action lawsuit in the spring of 2020, Quebec’s Superior Court dismissed the case.
Work in the tunnel was suspended for several weeks after a century-old explosive remaining from the tunnel’s original construction had been discharged in July 2020. Though nobody was injured in the incident, new measures requiring remote-controlled drilling equipment were put in place. Deterioration of some tunnel walls has also caused delays in the project.
LRT Trend is Global
The city’s existing Metro system currently comprises 71km of track. The first lines of the LRT will add 67km of high-speed travel, reducing travel time from the downtown area to the airport to a mere 20 minutes according to CDPQ.
Speed and efficiency are just two of the advantages of light rail systems. The trains are fully automated, driverless systems. Tracks are inaccessible to passengers, removing fall risk for objects or people risk falling during the wait. Above-ground tracks allow for flexibility in future development.
LRT systems are cropping up all over the globe. Melbourne’s transit runs 250km of line on 30 routes and makes over 1,500 stops. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system runs 136km of rail on three lines and moves over 200,000 passengers a day. Montreal’s completed project will comprise 99km of rail line and serve 49 stations.