Montreal’s first official snowstorm on Monday caused some hiccups for the city’s new REM rail service, but officials said they’re prepared for a winter without interruptions and that there are plans for better communication strategies in order to regain public trust.
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“We had a couple of events but we are doing a lot of improvements in terms of operations and on the system,” CDPQ Infra president and CEO Jean-Marc Arbaud said at a press conference on Friday. “We put a really strong emphasis to improve the communication.”
Service on the light-rail system faced some issues this week — including a 45-minute interruption on Friday morning with little notice — to allow Samuel-De-Champlain bridge workers to clear snow from its structures.
To help REM users going forward, a text service will be implemented in the coming weeks to warn them of interruptions, Arbaud said. Adjustments have also been made to the braking systems on the trains after landing doors didn’t open because the trains didn’t stop where they were supposed to.
“There have been a couple of events for which we are sorry and we are working on this,” said Jennifer Guillette, North American chief of services and operations for Alstom, the manufacturer of the trains.
Maintenance work will also be required and will be done outside of rush hour.
“We have to learn to play better together to be sure that users… are fully satisfied with all the services and the system works well,” Arbaud said.
Despite some blips, the consortium that manages the REM says all equipment for the system — from car doors and brakes to tracks and stations — were built to handle snow, ice and wind.
“The catanery (overhead wire) was designed and built with the 1998 ice storm in mind,” Guillette said. “Equipment was actually tested with some weights on the cable to ensure they were strong enough to handle an ice storm.”
The trains were also built with a snow plow designed to clear up to 40 centimetres of snow.
“We are quite satisfied with the equipment, not yet satisfied with the global operation and we are going to take care of it and we are improving,” said Marc Boucher, senior vice-president of AtkinsRéalis, formerly known as SNC-Lavalin, which worked on the design and construction of the system and is part of managing operations.
The REM has been operating at 98 per cent frequency since it was inaugurated this summer. Officials hope to achieve 99 per cent in the near future.