Quebec Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel rode the rails of Montreal’s metro system during rush hour on Tuesday morning.

Bonnardel’s voyage came at the invitation of Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, whose proposal of building a new pink line for the metro has received a lukewarm response from the Coalition Avenir Quebec government. Plante has called Bonnardel “out of touch” for dismissing the project.

The transport minister has said the pink line is not a priority in the short, medium or long term. On Tuesday, he refused to say whether his ride on the metro had changed his mind. 

Plante, Bonnardel and Minister Responsible for the Montreal Region Chantal Rouleau travelled on the orange line before attending a press briefing.

"It was a little packed this morning," Bonnardel acknowledged, noting that with many university students done classes for summer, the situation could have been worse. "It's a situation that we'll consider seriously. We'll see what projects we'll prioritize in the future."

In February, Plante thanked Bonnardel for accepting her invitation to try the orange line, which transports hundreds of thousands of Montrealers every day. Plante has called the line oversaturated and said the proposed pink line would alleviate the pressure by offering a new way to reach the downtown core.

"We all see pictures and videos being posted of how crowded it can get on the orange line," said Plante. "I keep on saying the orange line is the heart of our metro network and the entire network in Montreal, whether you live in Laval, Longueuil or Montreal, you see the orange line often. It's about doing what needs to be done to make sure the heart of the network stays strong."

Earlier this month Plante said she had concerns about plans to expand the REM light rail network that's currently under construction, saying she believes it would overload the existing metro network. Bonnardel said nothing is set in stone and the government is waiting for proposals from the Caisse de Depot's infrastructure wing on what the expansion could look like. 

“The orange line is always packed. I understand the situation,” said Bonnardel. “The situation is complicated for the user, for sure. But we have to have more solutions for them – and I really think in the future we will have more projects that will help Montreal.”

At a CAQ national convention in May 2018 before his election as premier, CAQ leader Francois Legault said the party had not worked the pink line into its financial framework, saying there are already two metro lines for Montreal’s downtown.

The STM will add more trains to the orange line later this year and an express bus from Beaubien to Papineau later this fall – but those are long short-term solutions said transit advocate Francois Pepin of Trajectoire Quebec.

“We need to think, with the work of the Autorite Regionale de Transport Metropolitain, of an integrated plan long-term to ease the pressure of the orange line,” he said.


- With files from The Canadian Press