Construction of Montreal's REM project halted after rail vehicle careens into Nuns' Island station

Construction of Montreal's REM project halted after rail vehicle careens into Nuns' Island station

Nuns' Island resident Matvei Morozov was sitting on his balcony overlooking Montreal's Champlain Bridge on Monday when he heard a siren blaring.

"Because I have never heard anything like that around here before, I thought something interesting might happen," he said.

With his phone in hand already, he closed the YouTube app, fired up the camera and trained the lens on the bridge. He recorded what appeared to be a vehicle careening down the tracks in the bridge's median — tracks being installed for the city's incoming light-rail network, known as the Réseau express métropolitain (REM).

The video shows the yellow maintenance vehicle rolling down the tracks and into REM's Nuns' Island station with a bang.

"As far as I am aware, it hasn't moved since," said Morozov on Wednesday, noting he still looks forward to riding the REM once it is up and running.

But the already delayed infrastructure project has been brought to a screeching halt as Quebec's workplace health and safety board (CNESST) ordered all work to stop along 67 kilometres of the track while investigators look into the incident, which left no one injured but caused significant material damage.

WATCH | Video shows runaway rail vehicle on REM tracks:

According to a statement from the consortium building the project, CDPQ Infra, the rail maintenance vehicle experienced a technical failure of its connection system. This led it to travel down the bridge toward the station.

"The vehicle was stopped by the protective measures installed on the rails specifically to ensure the health and safety of our workers in case of these unforeseeable events," the statement said.

"Further investigation is ongoing to understand the circumstances of the incident."

CNESST shuts down project

A spokesperson for the construction union, the FTQ Construction, said this was not the first such accident as a wagon had previously had brake issues, and just like in Monday's incident, workers had to jump out of the way.

Marie-Claude Normandin, spokesperson for the CNESST,  said the incident occurred at around 12:15 p.m.  on Sept. 5, and caused damage when the runaway vehicle hit a track derailer.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

A CNESST inspector decided to suspend work specifically related to the construction of the overhead line on the site's entire length. The contractor is investigating, Normandin said, and work will remain suspended until the CNESST is provided with a report on that investigation.

In addition, the contractor "will have to develop a safe procedure for the use and movement of these machines on rails," Normandin said.

"The employer and the project manager are responsible for taking the necessary measures to protect the health and ensure the safety and physical and psychological integrity of the workers," she added, and the CNESST is available to support the workplace as needed.