Hot on the BART video comes another forward view ride! Montréal’s new REM (Réseau Express Métropolitain) opened the other day to huge acclaim and there has been a good amount of videos on the new railway. There have been other forward views produced too but I think the one below is the best because of the excellent light and also the fact its a cloudy day (no rain thankfully like some of the others) which helps a lot in terms of clarity and dynamic range. The trip runs west to east into Montréal’s centre from Brossard to Gare Centrale (Place Bonaventure) and was filmed by Sky of the Universe.
The REM is officially opened by President Trudeau at Brossard. 28th July 2023. Railway International.
First of all the REM is a rarity that its fully automated and runs off the OHLE. Most semi automated lines run off the third (or fourth rail) and even those that are OHLE powered are essentially semi automated (such as the Elizabeth line). However a fully automated system (no driver, train operator, none, nada) that is powered by the overhead is certainly a novelty (the few existing lines are third rail) and its the forward views from these trains with the OHLE’s zig zag wiring that make it such an enthralling ride!
I found this video (at least visually) to be the best so far. One aspect of it however showed a situation that is in regards to British and European railways, the transit systems of North America have an unique arrangement which leaves a slightly unsettled feeling (at least for me) in terms of proximity especially on the new REM – and that’s the huge multi lane highways that run parallel to the REM. Evidently in a hugely car oriented world such as North America the only way to build a good amount of new transit lines is to build them in conjunction with the construction of new highways. The new 3.4km long Champlain bridge is evidently a product of this particular combination as is much of the route between Brossard and Du Quartier.
From my own perspective (others may disagree) it doesn’t feel as if the REM isn’t even a true railway (or rapid transit) except between Du Quartier and Gare Centrale. The centre reservation arrangement puts me off somewhat as do the stations stuck in between these speedways and its almost with a sigh of relief to see the train leave the bustling highways to follow its own alignment largely on elevated viaduct to the city centre.
The REM with Montréal centre in the distance The first section out of the city is a dedicated elevated rail alignment. Twitter.
The ‘problem’ here for me is how the REM (or any other transit system) are isolated from the surrounding communities – which is the opposite of what I think new transit lines should be achieving. They should be on their own right of way, no highways or busy roads nearby, plenty of trees, space and seating for one to relax and take their time, an opportunity to repose and so on. The centre reservation method suggests a disconnected railway which only has one purpose and that is to move faceless commuters or day trippers and shift them in a hurried manner. In short its not convivial.
Something else other I noticed is the full length walkways between Brossard and Central. Its a good addition and undoubtedly its a necessity on the modern railway – but despite the new REM being fully accessible (level boarding, lifts, etc) the walkway sadly isn’t accessible because the various connecting sections ends are accessed by way of steps. Its not just that the mesh surface of the walkways would make it difficult to evacuate such necessities. Not only that the emergency exits are stairs only, hence I wonder what the policy would be for evacuating say those in wheelchairs for example. As the picture below shows the last bit into Gare Centrale doesn’t have these emergency walkways.
The REM as it approaches Gare Centrale. Youtube.
The flats that are passed at 16.20 ish in the video are those that have had a number of complaints regarding the new railway. Despite the claims it is a quiet line some residents at these Griffintown flats insist it is very noisy and the trains keeps them awake. RM Transit conducted tests and said it was noticeable but wasn’t particularly noisy compared to the highways.
Teething problems with the new railway:
The REM hasn’t had too good an inaugural ride so far. There have been quite a few mishaps. Perhaps the most alarming was the fact some passengers found themselves trapped at Brossard depot for the night! Their train was supposed to go to Montréal but a glitch occurred and it was instead dispatched to the depot. The passengers were eventually rescued and the operators said they were ‘confident that such an event is exceptional and will not happen again.‘ (Montreal Gazette & CTVNews).
The system didn’t have a good first day of public operation (31st July 2023) with two major breakdowns occurring. In the second incident buses had to be called out to transport passengers. Global News.
There was one incident reported on Twitter, which seems to be the second breakdown that occurred. Passengers were stuck on trains at the Samuel de Champlain bridge. In due course they were transferred to buses to continue their journey. Twitter.
Stuck on the Samuel de Champlain bridge approaches! Twitter.
The lifts at Gare Centrale broke down TWICE on the first day! Twitter.
The third day of problems experienced by a Youtube vlogger: The REM fails – Miles in Transit.
Other REM ‘cab’ rides:
Timelapse Roundtrip Gare Centrale – Brossard – RM Transit.
Gare Centrale to Brossard Station (Rear POV) – Rail Fans Canada.
My first ride on the REM – That Montreal Guy.
Opening Ceremony (in French – has English subtitles):
Le PM Justin Trudeau participe à l’inauguration du REM de Montréal – CPAC.
Inauguration du REM : un premier départ entre Brossard et Montréal – Radio Canada.
Réseau Express Métropolitain website (in English).
Main image is from the forward view video by Sky of the Universe.