Montreal light-rail system to cost $300M more, come 1 year later than planned

An update on the project's status has revealed that Montreal's light-rail system will cost $6.3 billion, will only be partially done by summer 2021, will have one less stop and will have a new name.

Project to be 30 to 40 per cent complete by summer 2021, instead of totally finished by fall 2020

SNC-Lavalin is the company in charge of building Montreal's $6.3 billion light rail project, the CPDQ Infra, the Caisse de dépôt subsidiary responsible for the project, announced Thursday. (Radio-Canada)

Montreal's light-rail system will cost $300 million more than planned, will come a year later than planned, have one less stop than planned and is getting a new name, the group responsible for the project revealed Thursday.

CPDQ Infra, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec subsidiary responsible for the project, announced Thursday morning a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and Pomerleau have been tapped to build the infrastructure for the now $6.3-billion project. 

SNC-Lavalin will also provide the trains, in a partnership with Alstom Transport Canada. Bombardier submitted a bid for the contract but lost.

"The REM is a colossal project on a human scale, which comes about only once or twice every generation," federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said at news conference Thursday.

The higher-than-expected cost represents a five per cent increase from the original price tag, the consortium said during a news conference.

The modifications to the REM project were announced in a news conference Thursday. (CBC)

Construction will begin this April, and only 30 to 40 per cent of the project is set to be completed by summer 2021.

When the project was first announced, authorities said it would be done by the fall of 2020.

Other changes include:

  • A new name: the network will now be known as the Réseau express métropolitain instead of Réseau électrique métropolitain, so it will keep its REM acronym.
  • An abolished station: the stop that is now gone from the 67-kilometre-long route was planned near Highway 13.
  • A design change: the route from the Champlain Bridge to Central Station will now be built above ground along the CN corridors, instead of underground, reducing the chances that underground water collectors will be contaminated.

The consortium that will do the engineering and build the main infrastructure, including stations and tunnels, bridges and rails, will be made up of SNC-Lavalin, Pomerleau and four other companies.

The system's financing will be split between the federal and provincial governments and agencies. CPDQ Infra will invest $3 billion; Ottawa and Quebec are both contributing $1.3 billion. 

The Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) will spend $500 million on the project, and Hydro-Québec will contribute $300 million.

Michael Sabia, the head of the Caisse de dépôt, said the new system will help Montrealers move around the city.

"Going across the island will be easier and faster, why? Because our transportation networks will have more connections — and not just more connections, but better connections," said Sabia.

"Going to work, catching a plane, enjoying a festival in downtown Montreal, moving around the city every day will just be easier, simpler, faster." 

Disappointment from Bombardier

Bombardier, for its part, put out a statement acknowledging it was not selected for the contract.

Company president Benoît Brossoit said Bombardier's bid was "both very competitive and ideally suited to meet the sustainable mobility needs of the greater Montreal area."

"We understand and share the disappointment our employees have about this announcement," said Brossoit.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, however, said there is more than enough work to go around for Bombardier both across the province and Montreal.

"They have new trains of the actual Metro," he said.

"The Metro is going to be put on, we talk about the Blue line very soon, and maybe eventually the Pink line, I hope."

With files from Elias Abboud