News & Reviews News Wire Montreal’s REM light rail makes debut

Montreal’s REM light rail makes debut

By Trains Staff | July 29, 2023

| Last updated on February 3, 2024

Prime minister takes part in inaugural trip; weekend of free rides precedes start of regular service on Monday

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Light rail train and passenger train pass near body of water
A REM light-rail trainset climbs behind a VIA Rail Canada train at the Peel Basin of the Lachine Canal in Montreal during REM testing. Ceremonies marking opening of the first portion of the REM system were held Friday; free rides are being offered this weekend, with regular service beginning Monday, July 31. Michael Berry

MONTREAL — With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault taking part in the inaugural run, Montreal’s Réseau express métropolitain light rail network made its debut with ceremonies on Friday.

The first trips Friday on the 16.6-kilometer (10.3-mile) segment between Central Station and Brossard were a prelude to open-house events and free public rides today (July 29) and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Regular service will begin on Monday, July 31.

Tests during the final month leading to the system’s debut have seen a portion of the system struck by lightning and a temporary halt for a tornado warning, the Montreal Gazette reports. Those are the latest challenges for a system originally slated to open in 2021, but delayed because of issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the discovery of leftover explosive material from the construction of the Mount Royal tunnel a century ago. Reconstruction of the tunnel — previously used for commuter trains — proved to be a source of significant delays.

The Canadian Press notes the system is unique because it is not a government-led project. Instead, it is owned and operated by CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of the Quebec public pension fund, Caisse de depot et placement du Québec. As such, it is intended to be a for-profit entity, with CDPQ Infra projecting a 9% profit.

The complete 67-kilometer (41.6-mile), 26-station system is not expected to be completed until 2027, at a cost currently projected at C$6.9 billion, although most should be operating in 2024. Its true utility remains to be seen: as the Canadian Press reports, Quebec’s environmental review board argued in a 2016 report that the system would do little to increase the percentage of commuters who use transit, and was critical of the loss of the Mount Royal tunnel for other commuter operations. One line of Montreal commuter rail operator Exo was eliminated in favor of an REM route, and loss of the tunnel has greatly complicated prospective routes for the Montreal-Quebec City portion of the proposed high-frequency rail passenger project.

More information on the REM system is available at its website.

Map of Montreal light rail network
A map of the REM network shows the portion now in operation (in green), with sections still under construction in gray. REM

4 thoughts on “Montreal’s REM light rail makes debut

  1. Congratulations to Montreal with the opening of the new REM light rail system. When completed, the proposed 41.6 mi (67 km) network will supercede Houston METRORail’s 22.7 mi (36.5 km) network. REM will be nearly half of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail network of 93 mi (149.7 km).

  2. “loss of the tunnel has greatly complicated prospective routes for the Montreal-Quebec City portion of the proposed high-frequency rail passenger project.”


  3. The Alstom Metropolis Saint-Laurent is a type of light metro train built by Alstom for the REM. Part of the Alstom Metropolis family, 106 two-car trains were built in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh in India. Trains will run as a single two-car train at quieter times, running as a four-car trainsets at rush hour. The trains are fully automated (Grade of Automation 4), with no driver or attendant on board the train.
    Each two-car train seats 64, with standing capacity around 300. A four-car trainset can carry a maximum of 780 people at rush hour. The external livery is white, grey, and bright green, matching the REM logo.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

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