Montreal

STM leases buses to ease suburban commuter woes once Mount Royal Tunnel closes

When construction work for the REM light-rail network closes the tunnel beneath Mount Royal next month, thousands of suburban train commuters will be forced to find a new way into town. Montreal's public transit agency is picking up the slack.

Construction work in tunnel for REM light-rail network will shut down key commuter train line

The STM has had to rent 30 coach buses for six months in order to meet the demands. The Quebec government is footing the bill. (CBC)

When construction work for the REM light-rail network closes the tunnel that runs under Mount Royal next month, thousands of suburban train commuters will be forced to find a new way into town.

Montreal's public transit agency is picking up some of the slack, deploying 50 buses to shuttle commuters around the tunnel, starting on Jan. 6, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) announced Wednesday.

But without buses to spare, the STM has leased 30 coaches — buses designed for long-distance travel — to provide shuttle service for the 968 Trainbus Roxboro/Côte-Vertu and 919 Trainbus Acadie/Mont-Royal/Namur.

If required, the STM says its own drivers will drive the coaches.

The 964 Bois-Franc/Côte-Vertu shuttle service will be provided by STM buses.

The six-month, $2.9-million contract for leasing and maintaining the coaches will be covered by the province, as Quebec has set aside $192 million for REM mitigation measures.

Other REM mitigation measures to be introduced in the new year include rail shuttles and preferential measures for buses, such as priority lights and reserved lanes.

Maintenance issues mean no buses to spare

Maintenance issues with the STM's fleet makes it impossible to divert a total of 50 buses away from daily routes, the STM says.

STM chair Philippe Schnobb says the public transportation agency is unable to provide a total of 50 buses without renting 30 coaches. (CBC)

STM chair Philippe Schnobb said renting the coaches was the only way the agency could meet the demand.

"We didn't decide to close the tunnel. We didn't decide what kind of mitigation measures were needed but were told we will need a certain number of buses to provide the service," he said.

Commuters on the Mascouche line will be able to continue to take it downtown without transferring to the Metro, he said.

Schnobb said he expects it will take some effort to get used to the mitigation measures, and some of the measures may need to be altered, once everything is up and running.

"There are a lot of people who will have to adapt in January," he said.

"It is something that will be monitored on a daily basis to make sure that the measures implemented are the right ones and people are using the measures that are implemented."

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio

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