As Montreal’s new light-rail train network was inaugurated on Friday, federal and provincial officials suggested the system was the beginning of a push to expand electrified transit in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Quebec Premier Francois Legault were among the dignitaries who attended a ceremony in Brossard, Que., to launch the first five-station branch of the Reseau express metropolitain, or REM, an electric rail network that will eventually total 26 stations across 67 kilometres of tracks through the Montreal metro area.
Amid persistent transit woes in several Canadian cities, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Legault called the REM proof that Canada and Quebec can deliver large-scale transit projects.
“This project is a demonstration that when we work together, when we keep at it, you can deliver big things,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters.
“Electrification is a huge part of how we’re moving forward as a country,” he said, adding that the REM symbolizes a “great future” for Canada with more electric buses and rail, including high-frequency trains.
Mr. Legault said he expects the REM will herald profound change in “the way of seeing public transit in Quebec,” and will put an end to what the premier described as an era in which the province “talked a lot and didn’t realize much” in terms of large-scale infrastructure.
The REM represents a new model for transit planning in Canada. Unlike other large projects, including the much-delayed Toronto Eglinton Crosstown light-rail line and beleaguered Ottawa Confederation Line, the REM is not the domain of a public transit agency. Instead, its planning and construction are under the control of a subsidiary of Quebec’s public pension fund, which expects to profit from the new network.
The fund has invested more than $3-billion in the REM, which as of 2021 had a cost estimate of $6.9-billion. Funding has also come from the Quebec and Canadian governments, as well as Hydro-Quebec, the province’s electric utility.
Mr. Legault on Friday promised “a lot more” large infrastructure projects to come in the province, saying his government is open to future collaboration with the pension fund to complete them.
The first segment of the REM — a section running from Montreal’s South Shore to downtown’s Central Station — will officially open for service on Monday. In the meantime, users will be able to try the system for free over the weekend.
Trains will run 20 hours a day, seven days a week with service every three minutes and 45 seconds during peak hours, transporting commuters from Brossard to downtown Montreal in as little as 18 minutes — up to 30 minutes faster than rush-hour drive times, Mr. Legault said.