As Quebec prepares to reopen amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, some Montreal-area commuters are worried about using public transit, specifically on exo’s Deux-Montagnes train line.
Construction on the Mount Royal Tunnel, part of Montreal’s electric train network known as the Réseau express métropolitain, is set to resume on May 11, bringing with it the long-anticipated closure of the Deux-Montagnes line.
Work on the tunnel was pushed back in March due to health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.
But now, the Quebec government is easing restrictions and allowing for a gradual reopening of certain sectors of the economy as well as primary schools and daycares.
Shuttle buses will be replacing train service on the Deux-Montagnes line to help north shore commuters get to downtown Montreal, but some are worried about what kinds of safety measures will be in place to protect riders.
“Right now, the current COVID situation brings about a lot of questions,” said Francis Millaire, spokesperson for a group called the Deux-Montagnes train user committee.
“What worries me is social distancing,” said Deux-Montagnes resident Jean Dufour.
Millaire agreed, saying that although ridership is low now, it is expected to climb as businesses start to reopen.
“With the volume going up, how is it going to be adaptable to be going from trains to buses to the metro?” he said. “Every time you go off and on, there’s the risk of being in proximity with other people.
“From an overall public health standpoint, it still seems that common sense, it would have been safer to have people riding on just one transit.”
Transport Quebec officials say they are in the process of creating a committee to discuss the proper and best practices when it comes to public transit safety measures.
The committee will consist of transit authorities, unions and the CNESST, Quebec’s work health and safety board.
Quebec public health has released general guidelines but not anything specific to public transit. Health authorities, however, strongly recommend commuters use face coverings.
Commuters who spoke to Global News said they’re on board with the idea.
“Yes, I’ll wear a mask. There’s nothing else I can do,” Dufour said.
“I’m not taking chances,” said another Deux-Montagnes resident. “‘It’s for others,’ they say, but I’ll feel more secure, too.”
For now, individual transit companies are responsible for putting in place their own safety measures.
The Société de transport de Montréal has been disinfecting its stations and buses on a daily basis. Exo, which will be operating the shuttle bus service to and from Montreal, said it is doing the same.
Furthermore, exo is also limiting ridership on its buses to half the normal capacity.
Exo spokesperson Catherine Maurice said the company has had measures in place since mid-March.View link »