The REM system will be fully electric, powered by a 1,500 V catenary – curved cables hanging over electrified rail-lines providing current to the train. When the engines are running, they will use over 300 kilowatt-hours to do so – and will emit no greenhouse gases, reducing emissions by 680,000 tons over 25 years in operation. But can commuters depend on the system and trains to run on time and without any breakdowns?
Will REM be fully automated?
Being fully automated means there will be no actual person driving the trains. Instead, trains will be monitored and controlled from a command center – and there will be a second ‘backup’ center. Maintenance workers and customer service personnel will be on hand throughout the network to help keep things rolling along. Should there be a breakdown, there will be a procedure for the (two or four car) trains to return to the nearest station, with the train’s remaining energy and speed making that possible in most situations. For special circumstances, they will have ‘call buttons’ located inside the trains that can be used by commuters – and like the Metro system, evacuation instructions would be broadcast.
There are similar systems being used for close to 20 years now in places such as Barcelona, Singapore, Copenhagen, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and more – which have one of the highest levels of reliability and safety in the world. But what about the REM’s reliability in capacity, scheduling and comfort? Commuters in and around Montreal know well enough about over-packed trains, buses and metro cars – where getting a seat is considered good luck during most hours. Then there is having to endure hot, humid conditions in the summer or being late for work or an appointment because of delays in the system. How will those issues be addressed?
Although the REM cars will be smaller compared to the MR-90 trains on the Deux-Montagnes line for example, they will be able to handle 2.5 times more people during rush hour because of the increased frequency of the trains. With the ability to reach an average speed of 51km/h and a maximum speed of 100 km/h (at some parts of the system, such the Samuel De Champlain Bridge and the West Island stretch) the REM trains will have a capacity of 42,120 passengers during the 6:00 to 9:00 am morning rush hour. If more commuters use the system than estimated, the frequency can be increased without having to reconstruct the existing infrastructure. Seating on the other hand will actually be reduced by around 15%, but if compared to the new Azur cars in the STM’s metro system, there should be little noticeable difference. The Azur cars have 30% fewer seats than the previous MR-73 cars, but as the REM explains ‘they are considered to be more modern’ and ‘are designed to comfortably accommodate people standing during the trip, which is not the case for commuter trains’.
Platform ‘Screen’ Doors will open and close at the same time as the main REM car doors, addressing a problem that has plagued the Metro system since its start – items being dropped onto the tracks, one of the main causes for delays. The REM trains will also have ‘Capacity Indicators’ above the Screen Doors, indicating which cars are full and which are not, allowing commuters to choose the cars with more space before boarding. The trains will also be heated during the winter, air conditioned in the summer and have unlimited, high-speed Wi-Fi. There are many people excited about the new, futuristic transport system, but there also many who hold some skepticism towards it. Therefore, it remains to be seen until construction of the REM system is finished and officially inaugurated, with the full fleet in operation by the end of 2023.