Opening of REM delayed after COVID-19 work stoppages and an 'unexpected' explosion

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A blast officials believe was caused by century-old explosives in the Mount-Royal Tunnel is partly to blame in a series of delays to the completion of Montreal's light-rail network.

Trains were expected to start running by the end of 2021, but the company building the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) — CDPQ Infra — says complications have pushed the project back three to six months.

It says COVID-19 work stoppages also played a large part in the delays.

The Mount-Royal Tunnel portion of the network is now scheduled to open in fall 2023, instead of spring 2022.

The South Shore branch of the REM, which will connect Brossard to downtown Montreal, is expected to open in the spring or summer of 2022.

All of the network's branches are expected to be running by the end of 2024.

A news release sent by the REM says the "unexpected" explosion happened in July and that no one was hurt. Work was suspended until officials made sure it was safe.

"The most probable cause is an old borehole containing explosives dating to the first year of the tunnel's construction, 1912," the release said.