Residents in the Town of Mount-Royal (TMR) are gearing up for a fight against the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) — the new light-rail commuter train network set to open in 2023.
Despite recent reports that it won’t be built on schedule and that some municipalities aren’t being consulted, Quebec’s minister responsible for the Montreal region disagrees.
The $6.3 billion project is on track, said deputy transport minister Chantal Rouleau.
“We want the people to see what is happening because it’s very important and it’s going well and on time,” Rouleau said after she was given a tour of the REM’s Mount Royal station.
The REM’s tracks are being built just a few metres away from the existing EXO train tracks. Construction crews are currently working on the installation of the electrification system.
When the entire REM network is up and running by 2023, the TMR hub will see traffic increase to more than 500 trains per day.
But come January, many residents are expecting commuter chaos because the Mount-Royal tunnel will be shut down completely.
What’s more, the traffic mitigation measures are a mess, according to one local businessman who has launched a petition, demanding improved mitigation.
“When that train shuts down, what’s going to happen? Where’s the traffic going to go? How are people going to get to their jobs?” asks Peter Malouf, whose petition has collected more than 800 signatures.
He hasn’t ruled out filing a court injunction against the REM.
“If you have a heart attack and an ambulance can’t get to you, what’s the answer? Sorry?” Malouf said.
TMR’s Mayor Philippe Roy was out of the country and wouldn’t have been able to attend Tuesday’s tour of the construction site.
“Locally, TMR has major concerns about the impact of the project, particularly the closing of the Cornwall bridge, on the life of our residents, with respect to traffic and emergency vehicles access,” Roy said in a written statement. “The Town is not satisfied with the measures proposed by NouvlR to date, we fear the negative impacts on our residents and are working to have the solutions that we put forth accepted.”
Rouleau said it’s the first she’s heard about opposition from the mayor, adding all mayors across the network have had their say.
“I’m talking with all the mayors, they are very involved in the project,” she said. “Like the mitigation measures, they were all very involved and all was decided with their consent.”
Many residents are hoping government officials will take a look at the petition and listen to their demands before it’s too late.
“I’m not going to stop here,” Malouf said. “I think there should have been more communications to us as taxpayers who are affected by this in our community.”