by John Symon
Mayors from the West Island, together with Clifford Lincoln, a spokesman for the Train de l’Ouest Coalition and former MP, met Monday with Quebec Minister of Transport, Robert Poëti. On the agenda were plans to upgrade passenger train service on the Lucien L’Allier-to- Vaudreuil train line that runs from downtown, across Montreal`s West Island, Ile Perrot, and to Vaudreuil-Dorion. The mayors included, George Bourelle of Beaconsfield, Michel Gibson of Kirkland, Paola Hawa of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Morris Trudeau of Pointe Claire, and Maria Tutino, of Baie d’Urfé,
This commuter train line is operated by the Agence métropolitaine de Transport (AMT). With major long-term highway reconstruction work planned for the crumbling Turcot Interchange, there have been many calls to bolster AMT commuter service between downtown and the West Island. This would give West Islanders an alternative to driving their cars downtown. In the lead-up to this year`s provincial election, the Liberal Party promised to restart an ambitious program to add two new sets of train tracks dedicated for commuter train use over a 33-km distance from downtown to Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.
Now that the Liberals are back in power, they are talking austerity and have essentially thrown a bone to backers of more train service to the West Island. Instead of funding the building new train tracks at an estimated cost of $ 1 billion, the cash-strapped government has instead offered $80 million for new rolling stock (i.e. locomotives and train cars) over 18 to 24 months. But perhaps there will be more later…
The Coalition had been asking the Quebec Government to follow up on Premier Couillard’s electoral commitments in support of Train de l’Ouest as a priority. ”We need a more frequent and rapid service, in both directions, to provide efficient and improved access between the West and downtown Montreal. Rather than build costly new transit infrastructures, we want Quebec to strengthen and improve existing infrastructures and services,” reads part of a recent Coalition press release.
Specifically, the Coalition is asking for:
The building of new infrastructures between Lucien L’Allier and Ste. Anne De Bellevue
The addition of two to three trains in the rush hour direction
Rapid authorization for new complementary work to improve service and access
A link between Train de l’Ouest and Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
“There is a pressing need for new and user-friendly connections between Vendome station and the new McGill super hospital. Lucien L’Allier terminal also needs significant work to transform it into an efficient and intermodal station. The station at Ste. Anne needs to be modified to answer the requirements of Macdonald College and John Abbott College,” the release continues.
Among other requests, the group calls for an express train on this line. There is also mention of the increased volume of freight trains on the West Island and how this can be potentially disruptive to commuter train service.
“Looking at the short-term, the meeting with the Minister was a plus: he committed $80 million for new rolling stock, which will mean two to three additional trains per day in both directions,” said Lincoln. “As for the long-term project of dedicated tracks, we are unfortunately still waiting for a definite answer, the Minister having to receive a report from AMT before making a decision. So the result [of the meeting] was an A+ and a B-. So we keep pushing as hard as we can.”
The Lucien L’Allier-to- Vaudreuil line currently carries some 3.6 million passengers a year. With the new, dedicated tracks, the AMT estimates it could increase train volume from the present 26 weekday departures in each direction to 86. With the increased service, passenger use is expected to climb from the current 3.6 million passengers yearly to 9.1 million.
Clifford Lincoln. Photo courtesy: Train de l’Ouest Coalition
Transport Minister Robert Poëti. Photo courtesy: National Assembly of Quebec