Montreal’s new REM light rail system gives Mount Royal train tunnel new lease on life


I recently toured Réseau express métropolitain facilities and took a close look at Montreal’s biggest transit project since the subway opened in the 1960s. (You can read my Montreal Gazette story: Montreal’s much-delayed REM almost ready to roll)

A small segment of the REM light-rail project is scheduled to open in the spring of 2023, connecting downtown Montreal with the South Shore via the new Champlain Bridge.

Part of the 67-kilometre train network will eventually stretch under Mount Royal via a tunnel. That part of the 26-station REM system is scheduled to open at the end of 2024.

Opened in 1918, the five-kilometre Mount Royal tunnel runs between Central Station in downtown Montreal and Canora Station in Town of Mount Royal.

Under the REM project, the tunnel will feature two stations – McGill in downtown (connecting to the métro Green line) and Édouard-Montpetit in Côte-des-Neigres (on the métro Blue line).

Before REM trains can run through it, the tunnel requires major renovations.

Offering some rarely seen views of the tunnel, this Tunnelling Association of Canada video is about the required construction work:

This video, from the company behind the REM, explains the tunnel’s importance in the project:

The City of Montreal’s archival department posted photos of tunnel excavation work conducted between 1912 and 1916.

Side note: In the 1960s, there was talk of building a station in the train tunnel deep under Mount Royal, with elevators zipping visitors up to a huge tower that would have been built on the mountain.

It’s one of the unusual proposed Mount Royal schemes that I wrote about a few years ago in this feature for the Montreal Gazette – Saving ‘the people’s park’ from fanciful schemes.

A 1912 map showing the Mount Royal tunnel.

REM map showing the Mount Royal and airport tunnels.

REM maps showing whether stations are above or below ground.

REM map showing métro connections.

Train tunnel under Mount Royal, circa 1918. Source: McCord Museum / Notman and Son

Mount Royal tunnel under construction, circa 1912. Source: City of Montreal

Mount Royal tunnel excavation work, 1912-1916. Source: City of Montreal

  • April 23, 2023