CDPQ Infra Provides Update on Montreal’s REM

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Nearly six weeks after Réseau express métropolitain’s (REM) first segment was inaugurated in Montreal, CDPQ Infra on Sept. 13 provided an update on the automated rail network it is developing—from operations so far to construction of future segments to the project’s new, higher price tag.

The first segment, between Brossard on Montreal’s South Shore and Montreal’s Central Station, spans 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) and includes five stations equipped with a system of platform screen doors.

Upon completion, REM will be 67 kilometers long (41.6 miles) with 26 stations, linking downtown Montreal to the South Shore, the North Shore, the West Island and Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. It will provide rapid service with trains arriving every 3 minutes 45 seconds during peak hours and operate 20 hours per day.

Groupe des partenaires pour la mobilité des Montréalais (Groupe PMM), a consortium led by Alstom, is providing REM with a complete driverless, automated metro system, including rolling stock and signaling, and will operate and maintain the entire system for 30 years.

(CDPQ Infra Photograph)

“The past few weeks have seen us reach a very important milestone with the commissioning of the South Shore branch,” said Jean-Marc Arbaud, President and CEO of CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of Quebec’s pension fund manager, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. “In the context of recent years, to have delivered this, in addition to having completed 85% of the network’s other branches, within an extremely competitive budget, is exceptional. I salute the commitment of the thousands of people who are still hard at work on completing the REM and creating the world’s largest automated light rail transit line, right here in Quebec.”

According to CDPQ Infra, REM cars have made more than one million trips since commercial operation began July 31. With a daily average of 30,000 trips, the busiest day was Sept. 7, with 35,000 passages. From the start of its run-in period, CDPQ Infra reported, the REM’s reliability rate was 99%, or 860 hours of operation and six service interruptions, for a total of eight hours.

Over the course of the run-in period, the developer said the teams identified elements that are currently being upgraded—mainly escalators, elevators and communications during service interruptions. “The REM team recognizes the importance of quickly solving the issues,” it reported, “and is working on them with its operator GPMM, made up of teams from Alstom and SNC-Lavalin.”

According to CDPQ Infra, civil engineering work is largely complete for the West Island and North Shore branches and the developer is now starting to finalize the 19 stations, install control systems, and finalize the tracks and electrification. Branch testing is slated for spring 2024.

As for the airport branch, CDPQ Infra said that teams will begin installing tracks in 2024 and commissioning is scheduled for 2027, in line with Montréal Airport’s timetable for station completion.

Project Price Tag

CDPQ Infra also provided a financial update for the entire project. “Over the past five years, the REM construction period has been marked by extraordinary circumstances and exceptional technical challenges,” the developer reported. “Despite these constraints, CDPQ Infra and its partners were able to keep the project within a very competitive budget compared with other similar major transportation projects around the world.” The project cost of C$7.95 billion is up C$1.65 billion or 26% from the original C$6.3 billion confirmed when bidders were selected in 2018, according to CDPQ Infra, which noted that excluding the impact of the pandemic, the cost increase is 13%. “Under the REM financing package, the additional C$1.65 billion investment required to complete the project will be fully absorbed by CDPQ Infra,” the developer said. “In addition, the project’s main financial parameters, such as the passenger/km fare adjusted for price indexes and the expected performance target, are not affected.”

Here is the project cost breakdown:

  • Global pandemic (C$800 million): “The pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine had a major impact on supply chains, the price and availability of goods and labor both local and international,” CDPQ Infra said. “Additionally, it led to the closure of worksites and the adoption of stringent sanitary measures for several months. These items account for half of the increase in project costs.”
  • Mount Royal Tunnel and condition of the underground vault (C$350 million): “Starting in 2020, REM teams had to adopt innovative measures to meet the multiple construction challenges associated with the discovery of a century-old dynamite charge in the Mount Royal Tunnel and the severe deterioration of its central wall in the southern section, under McGill College Avenue,” CDPQ Infra reported. “The vault under McGill College Avenue has been completely replaced, and the central wall is now complete. With investments of C$350 million, we can count on major transportation infrastructures that have been renovated for the coming decades.”
  • Optimization, upgrades and improvements (C$500 million): According to CDPQ Infra, this amount includes costs from two sources: C$350 million “related to work optimization and infrastructure developments carried out by third parties and rail operators” and C$150 million “in response to various requests received from communities to improve access and layout around REM stations to better serve future users.”

CDPQ Infra noted that for the planning period from 2016 to 2018, the value of the project had already been adjusted from C$5.5 billion to C$6.3 billion “to take major improvements into account, including the addition of three new stations and 40 cars to enhance service quality.”

In a related development, engineering and technology group Sener has been selected to participate as REM’s Independent Checker Engineer (ICE).

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