Another year late for REM

New issues in the Mount Royal tunnel will delay the operation of the Réseau Express métropolitain (REM) by a year and increase costs further, we’ve learned Newspaper.

This is the third time in 18 months that delivery of this monorail project led by Caisse de Depot et placement du Québec has been delayed.

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Instead of opening from fall 2023, three-quarters of stations (20 of 26) will not operate until December 2024.

First tests of monorail cars on Montreal's south shore in June 2021.

QMI photo, Joel LeMay

First tests of monorail cars on Montreal’s south shore in June 2021.

“The tunnel presents special challenges due to the century-old explosives we found in 2020 and an advanced state of degradation,” explains REM spokesperson Jean-Vincent Lacroix.

After old IEDs exploded in 2020, additional security measures had to be taken, delaying the work. There has been a second explosion since then.

“We wanted to open the tunnel in the fall of 2023, but we saw that we could not start the tests before the summer of 2024,” said Mr. Lacroix.

Tunnel construction problems under Mount Royal are causing additional delays to the opening of many stations under construction, as is the case here in Saint-Eustache

Photo by Martin Alari

Tunnel construction problems under Mount Royal are causing additional delays to the opening of many stations under construction, as is the case here in Saint-Eustache

However, these tests for the operation of the trains last six months, leading to December 2024. “These six months are incompressible”, confirms the director of the Deux-Montagnes branch at REM, Jean-Philippe Pelletier.

Calendar turned upside down

Since the tunnel is located directly in the center of the network, this affected the schedule for the entire segment north of downtown Montreal.

Until very recently, Caisse promised the following commissioning schedule:

  • between Central Station and Saint Laurent (the section that includes the tunnel) in the fall of 2023;
  • between Saint-Laurent and Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue in the spring of 2024;
  • Between Pierrefonds and Deux-Montagnes in the fall of 2024.

But now it won’t be fully opened until the end of 2024.

“Until the tunnel is delivered and tested, even if the infrastructure is ready on the other side, I can’t deploy REM elsewhere,” says Pelletier.

He says he hopes to meet the new deadline. “All the major risks are now behind us, and all that remains is action,” he stresses.

Problems with the Mount Royal Tunnel have already caused the bill for the project to rise by several hundred million. Today Caisse realizes that the latest estimate of $6.9 billion will not be respected, but it is not in a position to assess the extent of these new excesses.

As for the connection to the airport, no date has been set for operation.

Despite these new delays, the fund is happy to avoid a possible “two-year” delay and enter service in 2026, by reviewing the entire sequence of train tests on the network.

Jean Vincent Lacroix.  official speaker

Photo by Martin Alari

Jean Vincent Lacroix. official speaker

Initially, it was planned that the network would run in five divisions from south to north, starting at Brossard and ending in Deux-Montagnes.

Explains the director of the Deux-Montagnes branch at REM, Jean-Philippe Pelletier.

Thus, CDPQ-Infra, the subsidiary Caisse responsible for the project, decided to accelerate the construction of the transportation hub in Saint-Eustache.

According to Jean-Vincent Lacroix, this will make it possible to conduct tests north of the Mount Royal Tunnel, without waiting for it to be commissioned.

We’ll see the trains [vides] It spreads from the end of 2023, he says.

This is the third time that the REM schedule has been revised since the beginning of the pandemic.

In November 2020, Caisse announced that an explosion in the tunnel and an epidemic forced it to delay its project by 18 months. So the first passengers are no longer expected to arrive in 2021, but in the summer of 2022, on Montreal’s south shore.

previous january, Newspaper It reported that the operation of the branch connecting South Beach with the city center has been postponed again, this time until the end of 2022.

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