REM officials say light rail project on time despite challenges

Working against a deadline
WATCH: Work on the South Shore to build Montreal's electric train network is well underway. New tracks are being laid and excavation work has begun to build the second deepest underground station in North America. But there are still many challenges and deadlines to be met. Global's Tim Sargeant explains.

The Réseau express métropolitain (REM) is the largest mass transit project under construction in Montreal in more than fifty years.

The sprawling light rail electric train network is supposed to revolutionize the way people get around in greater Montreal on 67 Kilometres of track.

“It is a landmark I think in terms of transit construction projects,” Xavier De Nettancourt, the REM’s South Shore and Downtown director, told reporters during a tour Thursday.

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Workers have installed 2.5 out of eight kilometres of track on the south shore in slightly more than a year.

The control centre, maintenance garage and parking space for 3,000 vehicles are under construction near the Dix 30 district in Brossard.

Elevated tracks are being built on columns to pass over Highway 10. They will be lowered to ground level to run across the Samuel De Champlain Bridge.

Building this infrastructure while keeping the highway open to traffic is one of the challenges engineers face.

“There’s a lot of traffic and we don’t have so much space and we’re working on Highway 10,” Vincent Lacroix, a REM spokesperson, said.

READ MORE: Town of Mount-Royal residents demand city council commit to legal action against REM

Another challenge engineers face is negotiating with CN Rail to build tracks that run parallel to those of the private multi-billion dollar rail company.

“We understand that CN is a vital economic and transportation element. So we have to be extremely careful and cautious in what we do,” De Nettancourt said.

De Nettancourt doesn’t expect those talks to cause construction delays but he can’t make any promises.

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“Our aim is not to have any delay. And we do all our best with them, with our clients even if it’s not always easy,” he said.

REM officials plan to test the first rolling stock of its trains on the south shore by the end of next year and the first passenger trains are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2021.