Extension of the REM to Lanaudière | What future for the “East Train”?

An extension of the REM de l’Est towards Lanaudière that Prime Minister François Legault is considering would mean the end of the “Train de l’Est” linking Montreal and Mascouche? Many questions remain unanswered, the positions in politics and the medium of transport are contradictory.

Posted at 5:00 am

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The press

Maxim Bergeron

Maxim Bergeron
The press

In Terrebonne, the most populous city in Lanaudière with 120,000 people, Mayor Mathieu Traversy is pleased with the government’s “openness” to expanding the Eastern Express Metropolitan Network (REM), but would have liked his region to be in the first from the start would be included phase of the project rather than a second part.


PHOTO PHILIPPE BOIVIN, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Mathieu Traversy, Mayor of Terrebonne

“For me, that’s a very big problem,” said Mr. Traversy, recalling that the “eastern train” was originally intended to be split into several phases in the northern crown. However, the sections towards Charlemagne and L’Assomption never saw the light of day.

Denis Martin, president of the Northern Crown’s table of prefects and elected officials, is more astute. “The Ostzug is a bit overwhelmed with all this. For this reason we would like to see an extension of the REM de l’Est. It would replace that option. If we want people to give up their cars, we have to make transport more attractive. With a puff every four to five minutes, it will encourage people. »

In his eyes, the line to Mascouche is “not a project for the future”. “We held talks with ARTM for two years [Autorité régionale de transports métropolitain] to find out how the Train de l’Est would be connected to the REM. With the announced new approach [lundi]we will be able to have much more open discussions,” said Mr Martin, who is also the mayor of Deux-Montagnes.


PHOTO PHILIPPE BOIVIN, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Denis Martin, President of the North Shore Prefects and Elected Officials Panel and Mayor of Deux-Montagnes

If we keep a heavy mode in addition to REM, we’re saying it would make a lot of connections. We increase the likelihood that people won’t use it.

Denis Martin, President of the Board of Prefects and Elected Officials of the Northern Crown

Pending a possible extension of the REM to Lanaudière, several solutions are being considered to try to relieve this rapidly growing region. These include: the addition of new bus routes, reserved lanes for carpooling and an increase in the frequency of the “Train de l’Est”. These options will be discussed at a forum on mobility in the northern crown, taking place in Repentigny on May 30, says Mathieu Traversy. He hopes that this meeting will make it possible to define the place where an as yet undecided extension of the REM de l’Est could end. “The mayors of the Northern Crown get along,” he says.

An “influence” on Exo

At exo, the operator of the S-Bahn network, General Manager Sylvain Yelle makes no secret of his concerns. “The new version of the REM de l’Est will certainly have an impact on exo’s services. In particular, the planned extension towards Lanaudière would have a direct impact on the bus network in the north-east ring of Montreal, as well as on the line exo5 Mascouche, about the future of which we have already expressed our concerns,” he explains.

In February, Mr Yelle denounced that CDPQ Infra was paying very little attention to the future of the Mascouche commuter train and its customers. “As things stand, the exo5 Mascouche line could be largely abandoned by users long before the arrival of the REM de l’Est, wiping out a line whose total investment is 750 million,” he worried at the time made.

Inaugurated in 2014, the Mascouche Line borrows new railway infrastructure for much of its route, of which it is the sole user. As early as 2019, the first construction work on the future REM led directly to a deterioration in the offer. With the closure of the Mount Royal Tunnel and the pandemic, the number of passengers on the Mascouche train dropped to fewer than 400,000 trips in 2020. And in 2021, the line carried around 110,000 passengers, or an average of barely 300 passengers per day.


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Aerial view of the nearly empty car park of the East Train’s Pointe-aux-Trembles station, last February

Sylvain Yelle says exo now “wants to work with the new working group on this major project”.

Coordination of the various networks is essential to ensure the reliability and efficiency of public transport services in the greater Montreal area.

Sylvain Yelle, CEO of Exo

Uncertainties in Quebec

According to our sources, Quebec agrees that the fate of the Train de l’Est is uncertain, with the intention of extending the REM de l’Est towards Lanaudière. The working group led by the ARTM will have the mandate to determine what to do with this infrastructure.

The government would like to use it again, especially since it’s expensive for taxpayers, but has no guarantees. The routing of the REM section in the direction of Lanaudière has not yet been determined. Quebec deplores the poor performance of the Train de l’Est, due in part to prioritizing freight transportation when using the rails. “We will examine the possibilities and await the opinion of the experts,” said François Legault’s press secretary, Ewan Sauves, on Tuesday.

On Monday, Mr Legault argued that “if we extend the project to Lanaudière and Laval, people from the East will use public transport more,” and spoke of “new passengers” who would join. “The committee needs to evaluate this new revenue to look at viability and how we’re funding the project overall,” he said.

In collaboration with Tommy Chouinard and Bruno Bisson, The press

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