Exo says it can no longer guarantee Montreal's suburban trains will arrive on time

Exo, the transit authority serving greater Montreal's north and south rings, is warning commuters on the Deux-Montagnes and Mascouche rail lines to get used to delays caused by the light-rail construction project.

North and south crown transit authority says commuters 'held hostage' by REM construction on its tracks

Work on Montreal's light-rail system will be creating delays to commuters using at least until 2022. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Already frustrated commuters on the Deux-Montagnes and Mascouche rail lines are being warned to get used to the delays that have plagued their commute for the past several months.

Exo, the recently renamed transit authority that serves greater Montreal's northern and southern rings, said Wednesday that it could no longer guarantee trains on those lines will arrive on time because of construction work on the tracks for the REM, the future light-rail transit system.

Exo said in a news release that the transit authority itself, along with commuters using its trains, are being "held hostage" by REM-related work.

"We do have to be honest," Caroline Julie Fortin, a spokesperson for the authority, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Back in April, Exo offered a 30 per cent discount on the purchase of a monthly pass for people inconvenienced by service disruptions earlier in the year. The compensation offer ended at the end of May. 

The Metropolitan Regional Transit Authority, the ARTM, said in a statement Tuesday it is now looking into the possibility of offering new discounts to passengers on the Deux-Montagnes line because of the REM-related delays.

The REM track work has already forced Exo to cancel four trains on the Deux-Montanges line and shift departure times on 23 trains.

"We gave ourselves a little bit of leeway but could not cancel more trains than we did," said Fortin.

Commuters frustrated 

Leslie Murphy, a monthly passholder who rides the Deux-Montagnes line, said the experience in recent weeks has been "unbelievably frustrating."

"Last weekend I saw men getting off ... with their dress shirts soaked completely because apparently on one of the days the air conditioning wasn't working," said Murphy.

He said that his commute is delayed often by trains running behind schedule. Sometimes, once he's on board, the train simply sits on the tracks.

Murphy is also astounded that fares went up two per cent on July 1, despite these disruptions.

This is only the beginning of what will be a frustrating ride for Deux-Montagnes commuters for some time to come.

In 2020, a segment of the Deux-Montagnes line from Du Ruisseau Station to Central Station will be shut down for two years while the track is converted for the light-rail transit system.

Exo plans to shuttle commuters by bus.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and Steve Rukavina