REM to cost at least $350 million more than expected

REM to cost at least $350 million more than expected

The revised price tag now comes to $6.9 billion.

Author of the article:

Jason Magder  •  Montreal Gazette

An artist's rendition of what the Réseau Express Métropolitain will look like.
An artist’s rendition of what the Réseau Express Métropolitain will look like. Photo by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec

The upcoming Réseau express métropolitain will cost at least $350 million more than expected, but that inflated bill will be assumed entirely by the new train’s builders.

That was the crux of the briefing Thursday by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec as it presented to the media a three-year update on construction of the city’s largest transit project since the inauguration of the métro in 1966.

The revised price tag now comes to $6.9 billion, with the federal and provincial governments still chipping in the original $1.28 billion initially committed. About $200 million of the extra costs are related to additional measures taken in response to COVID-19, and another $150 million is based on changes made to the project, both in response to requests from community leaders and as a result of changes made during the construction process.

When completed, the network will link the South Shore to Central Station over the Champlain Bridge, with operations to begin late next year. Other phases will come on line in the two years afterward, with links to Deux-Montagnes, Trudeau airport and Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Kirkland and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue along Highway 40.

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In presenting the update, CDPQ-Infra president Jean-Marc Arbaud said he was proud of the work done by the 3,000 workers constructing 23 stations along the 67-kilometre network.

“They didn’t stop in 15 months during COVID,” he said. “We have to thank our dedicated team.”

Arbaud warned, however, that there are still more cost overruns yet to calculate because the full impact of a 2020 explosion in the Mount Royal Tunnel has yet to be analyzed. However, he said as per the agreement with the public, the Caisse will also assume those cost overruns.

COVID-19 is also expected to have a slight impact on the revenues the REM is expected to collect. Fewer workers are expected to be travelling to the downtown core at rush hour for the foreseeable future. Analysts believe ridership during peak times will be about 20 per cent less than expected. But ridership during peak periods only makes up half the total daily ridership.

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Arbaud said forecasters believe there will be more off-peak trips on the network than forecasted, both because of changing ridership patterns and because more real-estate development than expected around the future stations will lead to higher ridership during off-peak hours. In the long term, he expects the Caisse will meet its goal of 180,000 daily riders on the whole network.

The REM will continue to charge the Autorité regionale de transport métropolitain the agreed rate of 72 cents per passenger per kilometre, and the ARTM will charge passengers the same rates for the REM as for other modes of transit, in accordance with the ARTM’s fare reform formula.

So far, the three South Shore stations have been nearly completed, and trains have been running between them for several months already. Construction has also wrapped up on the control centre in Brossard, where the automated trains will be controlled throughout the network and where they are stored when not in use.

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About 20 two-car sets out of 100 have already been delivered and they have been running on test tracks set up in Brossard. Those tests will accelerate in the coming months. Builders are completing a track loop near the Panama station and the trains will be rolled out at a pace similar to how they would run when the system is up and running.

More information on the construction process and the network is available at REM.info.

jmagder@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jasonmagder

More On This Topic

  1.  The Mount Royal tunnel is seen on in October 2018.

    Unexpected explosion could delay REM project up to 18 months

  2. The REM's first train cars were unveiled in Brossard on Monday November 16, 2020.

    ‘We went from a vision, to all of this’: REM unveils first train cars

Expected in-service dates

  • Spring/summer 2022: Central Station to Brossard
  • Fall 2023: Central Station to Du Ruisseau
  • Spring 2024: Du Ruisseau to Sunnybrooke and Anse-à-l’Orme
  • Fall 2024: Sunnybrooke to Deux-Montagnes
  • End of 2024: Marie-Curie and airport stations
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