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COVID-19 pandemic threatens REM construction

Click to play video: 'Should the REM be extended to the Dorval train station?'
Should the REM be extended to the Dorval train station?
A new report examines the feasibility of extending the REM light rail network to the Dorval train station even though it is not part of the original plans for the proposed rail system. Global's Tim Sargeant reports. – Sep 8, 2020

The global pandemic is putting the brakes on a major part of the light rail REM (Réseau express métropolitain) electric train line designed to connect Greater Montreal.

“The COVID pandemic is indeed threatening the construction of the REM station at Montreal-Trudeau Airport,” Anne-Sophie Hamel, director of media relations at the airport, told Global News in an email.

Read more: Coronavirus: Aéroports de Montréal slashes 30 per cent of its workforce as pandemic continues

A significant portion of the financing for the Trudeau airport REM station is supposed to come from airport authorities but the coronavirus crisis has dramatically cut into the airport’s revenues.

“The closure of Canada’s air borders means a drop in passenger traffic of 14.5 million (-71%) compared to 2019 will lead to revenue losses of approximately $500 million compared to the anticipated level for the current year,” Hamel wrote.

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Read more: Turbulent financial times for Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport

The future REM station at the airport is one of the signature and most integral parts of the REM project, which is supposed to stretch 67 kilometres with 26 stations. The REM Trudeau Airport station is the only one that is to be financed outside of the Caisse de dépôt and its partners. It’s projected to cost $2.5 billion.

Now the COVID-19 crisis is forcing airport authorities to reach out to federal and Quebec lawmakers for financial assistance to build the station.

“We are proposing to the governments that a loan with flexible repayment terms, based on the restoration of our revenues, be granted to us. We think this is a solution that is both simple and responsible,” Aéroports de Montréal CEO Philippe Rainville said in a statement issued in June.

Click to play video: 'REM construction work to finally shutter Deux-Montagnes train service'
REM construction work to finally shutter Deux-Montagnes train service

Mélanie Joly, the federal economic development minister, told reporters Tuesday morning that the government is in discussions now to help improve the finances of airports across the country.

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The mayor of Dorval is convinced the station will eventually be built but says it will likely be delayed.

“The federals and the provincials have to jump in and help with the financing of the airport,” Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau told Global News.

A report commissioned by the federal government and obtained by Global News concludes the benefits of extending the REM line from the Trudeau airport to a future REM station in Dorval would attract more than 13,000 daily users to the Dorval station by 2024.

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