REM chooses construction firms, locations for 26 stations
Montreal's new light rail project has chosen its builders for the railway, the stations, and the trains.
Michael Sabia, president of the Caisse de Depot which is controlling the project, announced Thursday that two consortiums will work on various aspects of the project.
He said the cost of the REM has now grown to $6.3 billion and will have 26 stations along the 67-km long railway.
Sabia said the price increase -- up $800 million since it was first announced -- should not have any significant long-term impact on the plan.
"A less than five percent increase in fixed price now that we have a budget is very much marginal in our minds, and that's counterbalanced by a meaningful improvement in operating costs. Both of those things contribute to our overall returns over the whole period, as one balances the other," said Sabia.
"There's really, from our perspective, no increase- there's no additional costs over time and so there's no need to pass on anything to anybody."
The fares for the REM have not been finalized, but Sabia said they would cost about the same as public transit in greater Montreal.
The Caisse sees one key benefit: profits from operating the REM will go to Quebecers.
"It's going to act as a motor of economic development here and it's going to generate very stable, resilient returns for all Quebecers into their pension fund," said Sabia.
The federal government is contributing $1.28 billion to the REM, as is the Quebec government.
Hydro Quebec is chipping in $295 million and Montreal, through the ARTM, is contributing $512 million.
The REM also has a new name with the same letters. Instead of standing for the Metropolitan electric network, the letter E now means Express -- for Reseau Express Metropolitain.
SNC-Lavalin, Dragados, Aecon, Pomerleau and EBC are responsible for building the tracks and the stations, while SNC-Lavalin and Alstom will build the more than 200 automated trains and have the maintenance contract for the trains.
Since the last proposal there have been two significant changes to the railway.
The first is the Peel Basin station and its tracks will no longer be underground. Instead that portion of the line will be elevated, running along the existing CN corridor. The precise location of the station has yet to be determined.
West Island commuters will also lose a station, as the stop near Highway 13 has been eliminated.
The plan is going to cause disruptions for commuters on the Deux Montagnes train line.
Because that route is going to be taken over by the REM there will be changes to the train tracks and other infrastructure, especially under Mount Royal.
"We're going to find the absolutely least disruptive way of refitting the infrastructure that we need to refit," said Sabia.
"We will minimize the disruptions. There will be some, but we will keep them as small as we possibly can."
Meanwhile Premier Philippe Couillard said he was certain the bidding process was fair, and he was not concerned that Bombardier, which had bid to build the trains -- and is also partially owned by the Caisse -- did not win.
"I'm preoccupied by our workers in La Pocatiere. Now they have work for some time, they have trains for the actual metro, the blue line, very soon and maybe the pink line I hope, and all that brings work to Bombardier," said Couillard.
Sabia said the Caisse has more than $2 billion invested in Bombardier because it is confident in that firm and its future -- but that didn't give Bombardier an automatic winning bid for the REM.
"We are also the manager of an urban transit project that we are trying to put together and In that respect our fundamental responsibility is to develop and deliver the very best possible project at the very best possible price," said Sabia.
The Caisse de Depot claims there will be 65 percent local content in this project, meaning two-thirds of the resources should be procured in Quebec.
The construction of the REM will involve 34,000 construction jobs once completed the line should employ 1,000 people on a permanent basis.
Construction is set to begin in April with the branch connecting Brossard to downtown Montreal being ready for riders in the summer of 2021, one year later than originally predicted.
The existing Deux Montagnes train line will be replaced by 2022, and the West Island and Trudeau airport will be tied into the network by 2023.