CDPQ Announces Ambitious LRT Project for Montreal

CDPQ Announces Ambitious LRT Project for Montreal :Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, Canada’s second largest public pension fund manager, announced on 22 April 2016 that it would commit 3 billion CAD to build a 67 km long double track light rail transit system linking Montreal with three suburban areas and the Montreal-Pierre Trudeau International Airport.

The head of the Caisse, Michael Sabia, made the announcement at a news conference and rejected any suggestion the project would be subject to delays and cost overruns: “I don’t think about failure. I think about success. Putting the puck in the net. That’s what we do at the Caisse.”

The project, Reseau Electrique Metropolitain (REM), is the first public-private partnership between CDPQ Infra, Caisse’s infrastructure unit, and the Quebec and Canadian governments. CDPQ Infra was created in July 2015 to implement an agreement reached earlier last year with Quebec’s government to develop and manage provincial infrastructure assets.

Along with the CDPQ Infra commitment, a combined C$2.5 billion is expected to come from the provincial and federal governments, although those entities have yet to approve the commitments.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who was at the announcement, backed the proposal and called on the federal and Quebec governments to offer their support.

Following the news conference, Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust told the press that the project was a “great announcement.” “We expect the federal government to match us,” he said. “We will do our fair share on this, don’t worry.”

“Nine months after the launch of CDPQ Infra, we are taking another important step,” said Macky Tall, CDPQ Infra President and Chief Executive Officer. “Much work remains to be done, but today we are unveiling a state-of-the-art solution. With highly frequent service, 20 hours a day, universal access and Wi-Fi available throughout the network, the REM promises to improve the daily commute of hundreds of thousands of people. We are committed to delivering the project on-time and on-budget.”

The proposed network would merge and expand two lines that Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard had identified as priorities when he appointed the Caisse last year to plan, finance and manage new infrastructure projects in the province. The REM would operate 4 car trains at rush hour, at a maximum speed of 100 km/h, 20 hours a day, seven days a week. It would carry 150,000 passengers daily.

James C. Cherry, Aéroports de Montréal CEO, said in a statement that “the proposed project, which will connect downtown Montreal, the South Shore, the West Island, the North Shore and the airport as part of a unified light rail transit system, far exceeds our expectations.”
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The project includes reserve capacity to meet future needs, with five potential stations envisioned for areas such as McGill University and Université de Montréal. The proposed route will also go through areas with high economic development potential, including the airport, Technoparc St-Laurent, Université de Montréal, the Peel Basin and the Wellington-Bridge area.

The 24 station network, once completed, will be the third-largest automated rail transport system in the world, after the ones implemented in Dubai and in Vancouver. Construction will probably begin in the spring of next year, with service beginning at the end of 2020.
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The REM could help reduce GHG emissions by 16,800 tonnes annually and accelerate Québec’s transition to a low-carbon economy. At the same time it could reduce economic losses associated with traffic congestion, currently estimated at $1.4 billion annually in the Greater Montréal area.

The expected timeline for the next steps involved follows:

Spring 2016 – Consultations
End of Summer 2016 – Environmental impact public hearings (BAPE)
Fall 2016 – Call for proposals with qualified consortiums
End of 2016/beginning of Winter 2017 – Final decision required from governments
Winter 2017 – Environmental decree
Spring 2017 – Financial closing
Spring 2017 – Start of implementation
2020 – Operation of first trains

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Writer: John Carlo Ottaviani

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