Light-rail network opening delayed yet again, with no date set yet
The long-awaited addition to Montreal's public transit network was set to open this spring after a series of delays. But the light-rail train is still running late.
The first portion of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), connecting downtown Montreal to Brossard on the city's South Shore, is now slated to open sometime this summer, although the exact date has yet to be determined.
According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, the launch is expected to take place early in the summer rather than later.
This is not the first time the opening has been delayed.
Originally, that portion of the REM was set to be up and running in 2021. That didn't happen..
In October 2022, CDPQ Infra, the group charged with delivering the network, said "exceptional circumstances," including the global pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, had made it nearly impossible to deliver the project on time.
CDPQ Infra — a subsidiary of Quebec's pension fund manager, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec — said at that time that five South Shore stations of the REM won't open before the spring of 2023.
The station slated to be the first to open is near Quartier DIX30 in Brossard on Montreal's South Shore. From there, the train will stop twice to pick up passengers as it heads north, crossing the Champlain Bridge and stopping again at Nuns' Island before reaching downtown.
The driverless trains are now in the testing phase, and some witnesses to that in Montreal's Griffintown have complained the trains are too noisy as they zip along the tracks through their neighbourhood.
The final stage of testing hasn't yet begun. That will require running the trains, without passengers, at their expected operational frequency — about every two minutes, during peak periods.
CDPQ Infra hasn't divulged why that phase of testing has been postponed, nor why other reliability testing has not yet begun.
The final cost of the project has not been divulged either.
At the end of last month, the NouvLR, the consortium responsible for the construction of the rail network, suggested the first public trip would happen before spring ended.
"We, too, are eagerly awaiting the launch of the REM," Maxime Roy, a spokesperson for Transport Minister Geneviéve Guilbault, said in an email, directing further inquiries to CDPQ Infra.
In a statement issued by CDPQ Infra, the organization says it is almost ready.
"As you can see, REM cars are present throughout the network, and we are in the highly intensive phase of final testing. But what matters most is ensuring that the user experience is optimal from the very first journey," said spokesperson Emmanuelle Rouillard-Moreau.
She said launch date is rapidly approaching, but did not give an exact date.
Sophie Mauzerolle, in charge of transportation on Montreal's executive committee, said the REM will make it much easier to get around the city once it is running.
She said people in greater Montreal have "high expectations for this large-scale project. We are all eager to see it fully operational."