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Tramway | Quebec says it learned from the pitfalls of Ottawa

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(Quebec) The Quebec tramway will not experience a launch as catastrophic as the Ottawa light rail, believes the director of the Project Office, who says he has learned lessons from the federal capital and plans to test his trains in winter.

“We went to see how they did their job in Ottawa. We went to see them, discuss with them, and we learned a series of lessons, ”assured Daniel Genest, director of the tramway project office, on Tuesday.

Mr. Genest participated on Tuesday with his team in a plenary committee on the tramway at Quebec City Hall. For nearly seven hours, elected officials were able to ask questions about this project of nearly 4 billion.

Presented almost four years ago by former mayor Régis Labeaume, the Quebec tramway project received only 41% support in a survey last January.

But Mr. Genest was reassuring. Some of the 1,584 trees that need to be felled along the 19.3 km route could be saved, he said. And the tramway project in Quebec is “very different” from the light rail in Ottawa and the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) in Montreal.

“The City is the mastermind”

In the metropolis, the future REM de l’Est is making headlines. His career is decried, as is his visual appearance.

But the capital does not do business with CDPQ Infra, noted Mr. Genest. “We have the advantage that the City of Quebec is the prime contractor for the project and imposes its vision on the private partner,” he says.


PHOTO YAN DOUBLET, LE SOLEIL ARCHIVES

Daniel Genest, Director of the Tramway Project Office

“This is not quite what is happening in the greater Montreal area, with the REM de l’Est […] We have an entity which has a vision of a transport system and which must put it in place in a city without the City necessarily being the prime contractor,” he notes.

In Quebec, the city is in charge. It launched two calls for tenders: one for rolling stock, the other for civil works (rail, the tunnel between Lower and Upper Town, electricity supply, etc.). In both cases, two consortia applied.

“The private partner infra who will deliver the work, he will deliver the work as we want them,” he says, while in Montreal, CDPQ Infra is leading the boat.

Test the trains in winter

In Ottawa, the light rail inaugurated in September 2019 has experienced a series of incidents. The Confederation Line was particularly derailed and some train doors froze in winter.


PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

In Ottawa, the light rail inaugurated in September 2019 has experienced a series of incidents.

The City of Quebec has therefore deployed a team on site. “One of the big problems in Ottawa is that the tryouts were quite short,” he said. “And when they set up their system, it was fraught with challenges. »

Quebec will not make the same mistake, he assures. Trials are to take place from May 2027 and throughout the following winter. “Which means that we arrive in 2028 and the tram has not just come out of the garage. »

In the meantime, the City is studying ways to save as many trees as possible. The possibility of moving or eliminating the Saint-Charles-Garnier station in Montcalm was even mentioned by Alejandro Calderon, team leader for urban integration.

As for the budget, the Project Office could not guarantee that there would be no further cost increases. The project went from 3.3 billion to 3.965 billion, in particular because of inflation.

“We will have the answers when we open the envelopes,” said Mr. Genest. The start of work is scheduled for the summer of 2023.

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