Metropolitan Express Network | Citizens delay and impatience

As they understand the challenging context in which CDPQ Infra finds itself, residents of northwest Greater Montreal say they are angry at the new postponement of several sections of the Réseau Express métropolitain (REM), including its downtown branches, that the west and north will not see the light of day before the end of 2024.

Updated at 12:13 am.

Henry Owlette Vezina

Henry Owlette Vezina

“I am very disappointed. I hope to still be able to walk when the REM is working. Because we depend on it a lot here,” says Jean-Pierre Couture, a resident of the Laval Islands, where a station has been under construction for several months.

CDPQ Infra announced on Monday that the delivery of 18 REM stations in the city center on the island’s west and in the northern crown will have to be delayed again. We will have to wait until the end of 2024, as the site of work is still severely damaged by the discovery of century-old explosives in the Mount Royal Tunnel in July 2020. However, the South Shore branch continues to open in the fall of 2022. As for the road to connect the airport with Central City, we hope to be able to “confirm the commissioning date this fall.”

To keep the Deux-Montagnes and Anse-à-l’Orme antennas open in 2024, CDPQ Infra intends to “reverse” its test sequence, by publishing tests from Saint-Eustache, not Brossard. It will then be possible to avoid the Mount Royal Tunnel and not delay the tests. Otherwise, the Deux-Montagnes antenna would have to wait until 2026.

Photo of Hugo Sebastian Hubert, the press

Jean-Pierre Couture, resident of the Laval Islands

By saying he is “aware of how lucky he is” to live in a neighborhood that will be served by REM, Mr. Couture makes no secret of the fact that he is starting to lose patience.

It will be great when it works.

Jean-Pierre Couture, resident of the Laval Islands

But in the meantime, “Some days, 100 12-wheeled trucks can pass in front of my house; we can’t enjoy our land.”

‘It’s hard on morale’

Not far from there, Danielle Bellanger and her husband Pierre Landreault are also looking forward to 2024. “With the construction site, we can no longer go to the city center, except by car. M saysI Belanger, who may find it “overkill” to back off again. “Before, I worked downtown and things were going really well. There, we hope we can soon go to Bois-Franc to go to Côte-Vertu, and then to the city centre. It will be the lesser of two evils,” Landreault adds.

Photo of Hugo Sebastian Hubert, the press

Réjean Gravel, resident of the Laval Islands

Réjean Gravel tries to remain optimistic. “Of course this is a shame, but at the same time, explosive in a tunnel, I understand it changes the style of work. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs,” he says, lamenting that the city missed an opportunity in his neighborhood. During the work, an area was opened located near the water source, which he considers deficient. “They could have used it to improve drainage in our area,” says Mr. Gravel.

We are on a small island, we had a small train station, and everything was fine. Why do we need such a monster if there are five or ten minutes from here? I never understood, and I like the delay even less.

Iris, resident of the Laval Islands for nearly 15 years

University of Montreal transportation planning expert Pierre Barriot fears the consequences of these new reports on public transportation use. “We still have a chance here to convince people, after COVID-19, to go up to REM. What I fear now is that a lot of people will adopt habits, and it will be hard to convince them after that,” he summarizes.

Explosives that changed everything

In November 2020, Caisse de dépôt announced that opening the antenna using the Mount Royal Tunnel would be delayed by 18 months after an “unexpected” detonation. Therefore, the required 30,000 wells had to be drilled while working with a camera and remote control system, as a safety measure.

“General conditions of the deterioration of the central wall of the tunnel vault under it [l’avenue] McGill College “is also responsible for these extended deadlines, CDPQ Infra says, as well as the effects of COVID-19 on the workforce and supply.

For citizens frustrated with these new delays, CDPQ Infra spokesperson Jean-Vincent Lacroix suggested “take a step forward”.

We are talking about a project that was first announced in 2016, and eventually, we will deliver it at the end of 2024. Less than 10 years to build 67 km of light rail, that’s a very good schedule worldwide.

Jean-Vincent Lacroix, spokesperson for CDPQ Infra

These new delays will inevitably lead to increased costs. The estimate of 6.9 billion will not be honored, but the final cost is unknown. Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel noted on Monday that the situation in the Mount Royal Tunnel was “extremely unpredictable”. He noted that “we would have liked to have the delivery earlier, but the things that cannot be achieved and these situations push us to continue supporting Caisse,” stressing that Quebec will not hesitate to improve mitigation measures when needed. “Currently, the services we provide are doing the job,” he said.

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