By Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca
Great news on the urban front, also good news for the suburbs in the West Island: works to improve the Westmount Subdivision, the name given by the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) that oversees public transportation in the Montreal area to the 7.4 km section of track between the Lucien L’Allier station downtown and the Montreal West station have been completed. The refurbishing of this section that serves trains going to Vaudreuil-Hudson on the west, Candiac on the south shore and St. Jerome on the northern part of the Montreal area included the addition of a third track, new signal equipment, construction of a crash wall in the NDG sector, and some other works. By doing this the AMT aims at preventing delays that may be triggered by train breakdowns or faulty signaling equipment which before these improvements meant the stopping of the whole system.
The work on the Westmount Subdivision was finalized at the end of October when a third track was added between the Vendome and the Montreal West station, the last section of the subdivision where work had to be done. Although this railway line belongs to CP and not to the AMT the cost of the work was paid by the public agency after an arrangement was concluded that in turn may result in a greater use of the track by the AMT. Considering the current ridership 30,000 people who daily use the service will be benefited. In fact by the end of this year when all works are completed the AMT hopes that not only there will be a more efficient and punctual service but that it could also add new departures, including one late at night, an old demand by people in the West Island. Presently on weekdays there are 14 departures from downtown to Vaudreuil and 13 from the suburban area to Lucien L’Allier the latest departure to Vaudreuil at night is at 9:15 p.m. Train traffic to Candiac and St. Jerome is much smaller concentrated mostly in the afternoon and evening and the AMT doesn’t seem to have plans to increase it.
Certainly this is good news not only in terms of what it means for commuters in those suburban areas, but also as a revival and revaluation of the train as a means of transportation in these short-to-medium distances. Utilizing the train instead of the car facing the consequent traffic jams and driving stress, should become a new practice that—eventually—must change the mindset of many suburbanites; besides such change in transportation habits would also have an important and positive impact on the environment. Of course for people so accustomed to take the car thinking in its convenience, the change to become a train passenger has to be convenient too: the service must be reliable, the train frequency must improve, and once they are in the city the stations must be well-served by bus or metro in case they need additional transportation to their destination. This is true in the case of the two major stations in the downtown area, but not necessarily so in other stations, bus service must be improved in some of them (and even though Lucien L’Allier is not too far from the downtown core, it was very bad planning that the excellent location of Windsor Station as a natural terminal has now been wasted due to the construction of the Bell Centre which blocked the tracks).