Delivery of most REM stations delayed until late 2024

Montreal and north shore transit users will have to exercise patience before being able to use the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), as problems with the Mount Royal Tunnel have pushed back the delivery of most stations to the end of 2024.

In a press release issued Monday morning, CDPQ Infra, which is leading the light rail project, confirmed that the branch connecting the South Shore to downtown Montreal is still scheduled to open next fall, but all other stations will not open until late 2024.

The opening date for the connection to Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport is expected to be announced next fall.

Instead of opening in three phases between fall 2023 and fall 2024, 18 of the 26 stations located downtown, the west end and the north shore won't welcome their first riders until the end of 2024, according to the latest estimates.

In an interview with the Journal de Montréal, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec acknowledged that delays will lead to higher costs, exceeding the most recent estimate of $6.9 billion.

This is not the first time that challenges with the Mount Royal Tunnel have caused delays in the project delivery.

In November 2020, CDPQ Infra held a press conference to announce that unforeseen circumstances in the tunnel, plus challenges related to COVID-19, forced an initial postponement.

Workers had found explosive residue that complicated their work, adding to the general deterioration of the century-old tunnel, particularly under McGill College Street.

In light of this finding, CDPQ Infra says it has reshaped its work schedule to make its entire network operational -- except for the airport portion -- before the end of 2024.

The sequence of car tests has been revised and will not begin until the summer of 2024 in the tunnel.

Testing for the branch between Montreal and the South Shore is already underway.

CDPQ Infra also indicated that if the sequence of stations from south to north had been maintained, the REM would not have reached Deux-Montagnes before 2026.

The REM team also points out that discussions are underway with the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) and Mobilité Montréal to maintain mitigation measures when it comes to the complete closure of exo's Two-Montagnes line and impediments related to the Mascouche line.

These two commuter train lines used the Mount Royal tunnel before its closure.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 20, 2022.