From tracks being laid to trains being tested, many Montreal commuters have been been witnessing the progress being made on the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM).
But not all the work being done on the future electric train network is visible. Some of it is happening deep below ground.
That’s the case in Montreal’s Outremont borough where work is being carried out on the Édouard-Montpetit Station.
At 70 metres, it’s the deepest station in Canada, according to REM contractor, CDPQ Infra.
Emmanuelle Rouillard-Moreau, CDPQ Infra spokesperson, said it was necessary to build at that depth to reach the Mount-Royal tunnel where the REM station connects.
She added the work came with numerous challenges, not only because of the depth and the hardness of the Mount Royal bedrock, but because of its proximity to schools, homes and utilities.
“Rigorous measures were deployed at all times to ensure the safety of workers, the public and infrastructure,” she said.
Getting through the bedrock required blasting in such a way as to reduce vibrations and limit potential impact in surrounding areas.
“Throughout the work, some 20 seismographs around the site monitored the effect of each blast in real time,” Rouillard-Moreau said.
To date, 30,000 cubic meters of rock has been excavated from the site and used as ballast at the Deux-Montagnes branch.
CDPQ Infra said the excavation work, which was like digging a hole the size of 20-storey building, was finished in 2019, allowing for construction of the station to begin.
Work on the inside of the station is expected to begin in the coming months, with slabs of bedrock integrated into the final design.
“It’s reminiscent of all the work that was accomplished to build this station,” Rouillard-Moreau said.
The station is expected to be finished by 2023, and by all accounts getting underground might feel more like going to an amusement park than a train station.
“The station will be accessible via five high-speed elevators that will travel the equivalent of a 20-storey building in less than 30 seconds,” Rouillard-Moreau said.
The lifts together will accommodate 5,000 users per hour, according to officials.
And from there, it will be a quick train ride downtown.
“The REM station will connect the borough of Outremont and downtown in only three minutes, while offering a fast connection to the green line (via McGill station) and the orange line (via Bonaventure station).”
There are also contingency plans in place for emergencies.
Ventilation shafts are being built which help extract smoke in case of fire.
The elevators will keep working and there will also be stairs to leave.
“If there’s a flood, all the water will be pumped out by our pumping station,” said REM tunnel expert, Jean-Philippe Pelletier.
And there are waterproof membranes behind the walls to keep water out.
— With files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter