The Trainsparence coalition is sceptical about the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CPDQ)’s recent announcement adding three stations to its Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM).

Édouard-Montpetit, McGill College, and the Peel basin – which were not included in the original plan – offer two possible connections to Montreal’s metro system.

Projected costs have jumped to $5.9 billion, from the original estimate of $5.5 billion. Trainsparence, a coalition of public transit experts, environmental groups, and unions, including CUPE, has called on the National Assembly to hold a parliamentary commission to evaluate the full impact of the project.

“It’s absurd to think that the 67-km REM line was originally designed with only one connection to Montreal’s metro system,” said Alex Turcotte, spokesperson for Trainsparence. “The walk to make the connection between the REM central station and the metro line is a full 10 minutes. This only further demonstrates that the REM was created without considering the needs of Montreal’s public transit users.” 

Turcotte also points out that other public transit plans, like the Grand Virage, proposed by Option transport durable, included 140 stations and at least three times more passenger capacity than the REM is offering, on a similar budget.

“Both Premier Couillard and Montreal mayor Denis Coderre are moving forward with the REM without looking at other options, and without waiting for Quebec’s environmental review board (BAPE) to present its report on the REM,” said Lisa Mintz, another spokesperson for Trainsparence.

“So why even bother holding public hearings if Couillard and Coderre are determined to plough ahead no matter what?”, added Mintz.

“The REM is still a threat to the Greater Montreal transit authority’s current commuter train service and contributes to urban sprawl,” said Turcotte.

“But, more importantly, the REM is not a project that was designed with Montreal commuters’ needs in mind, but rather as a way for CDPQ Infra to make money.”

Lisa Mintz wants to warn Montrealers about other major infrastructure projects that failed to deliver on their promises due to poor planning.

“The REM white elephant, could very well be bigger than the Olympic Stadium or Mirabel airport.”

Barely a year ago, the Charbonneau Commission presented its report on fighting corruption and now Couillard’s Liberals have excluded CPDQ Infra from a new law protecting whistle-blowers. “It doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Lisa Mintz.