“Thursday’s announcement shows that the Trainsparence coalition, which cited poorly designed routes, technology unsuited for the sectors concerned, unrealistic technical challenges, a flagrant lack of transparency and a topsy-turvy schedule, was right from the outset,” exclaimed Laurent Howe, one of the spokespersons for the Trainsparence coalition.

The Trainsparence coalition acknowledges its voice was heard on certain issues. We welcomed the news that a station would not be built under the Peel basin, which made no sense. Moreover, even though we still deplore the privatization of a portion of our public transit system, we noted that the Caisse did announce that “three existing shared-vocation infrastructures, i.e., the Mount Royal Tunnel, the Central Station and the southern viaduct, have been or will be acquired and placed under a new Caisse subsidiary (InfraMtl.co) to ensure public sustainability.”

“Safeguards shall be put in place, however, to ensure that this new subsidiary of the Caisse cannot be sold to foreign interests, which is the case of the CDPQ-Infra, a company whose shares are owned by the Caisse de dépôt et de placement du Québec,” pointed out Jean Fortier, the former chair of the City of Montreal Executive Committee. “The entire REM must revert to public ownership in 30 years, which is generally the case with PPPs.”

“We deplore that the effect on user rates has still not been determined just months away from the announced start time of the work,” added Ms. Shaen Johnston of the Montreal Climate Coalition. “It is still unacceptable that the Act respecting the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain does not apply to the CDPQ-Infra and that the latter could prompt the Agence régionale to sharply increase the rates for all users of the system, just like for municipal taxes. The social pricing promised by Projet-Montréal may also be at risk. There’s no getting around the fact that a significant portion of our public transit system has been privatized,” she added.

“Users of the Deux-Montagnes line will have to contend with a prolonged service shutdown for two years while the work goes on, which neither the Caisse nor the government dared to mention publically. They will have to forget about the substantial improvement in comfort that would have resulted had two-storey cars been purchased for a very low cost for use on that line,” added Jean-François Lefebvre, a transport planning lecturer with UQAM. “Opting for SkyTrain technology with its very costly and unexpandable stations severely curtails the growth that could have occurred with increased traffic on that line in the future,” added Luc Gagnon, a lecturer at the École de technologie supérieure.

“The Caisse and the government are relying on technology that does not exist yet to run trains other than the REM through the tunnel, including the Eastern Train (Train de l’Est).  The need to include the Montreal-Quebec City leg in the planned investment by the federal government for the high-frequency train (TGF) is not in doubt. There must be some assurance that the TGF and the Eastern Train can go through the tunnel before the REM project is approved,” pointed out Denis Allard, the president of the Fonds mondial pour le patrimoine ferroviaire.

“Guarantees must be put in place to ensure that other public transit services are maintained and improved, particularly the Vaudreuil-Dorion train line, the survival of which is clearly threatened by the implementation of the REM as proposed,” said John Symon, one of the spokesmen for Trainsparence.

“Finally, care must be taken to ensure that funding remains for public transit service projects, which are far less costly and more structuring than the skytrain will ever be, especially the downtown/Lachine part of the pink line either as a metro at ground-level or in tramway mode and a tramway project on Taschereau,” concluded Mr. Gagnon.