Expect construction in the metro. The long interruption on the green line, in the middle of rush hour Monday due to the deterioration of the concrete in the vault of the tunnel between the Berri-UQAM and Saint-Laurent stations, is the omen of “major work” in the metro during coming years, admits the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

“Major work needs to be done to give us another life cycle of the metro. And that’s what we’re going to do, “said the president of the transport company, Eric Alan Caldwell, on Tuesday, without however advancing on the stations deemed to be priorities. In his latest budget, he recalled, his group projected spending of $4.4 billion on asset maintenance over the next 10 years. Of this sum, approximately 3.3 billion have been confirmed, the rest still being discussed with donors, including Quebec and Ottawa. “It is normal that the sums are not all confirmed. We are in discussion, but our partners understand the strategic importance of protecting the Montreal metro, ”also argued Mr. Caldwell.

The reopening of the green line was announced Tuesday around 5 a.m., nearly 12 hours after the total interruption between the Frontenac and Lionel-Groulx stations, a section that serves around 150,000 people a day. It was a water leak, the exact cause of which is still unknown, which had made it possible to detect cracks in the vault of the tunnel between the Berri-UQAM and Saint-Laurent stations. “The degradation of the concrete is superficial and the integrity of the vault is not in question”, then decided the STM. Emergency works, held overnight from Monday to Tuesday, “brought down the concrete that could have fallen by vibration on the track”. Various preventive works will still have to take place above the tunnel in the coming weeks. A metal mesh will be “installed over the next few nights to give us time to carry out work,” says the STM. “Permanent works” will then be undertaken to rebuild the vault as new, which is expected to take several months.

In an interview with La Presse, the director general of the STM, Marie-Claude Léonard, affirms that the metro is entering “in its second cycle of life”. “The Saint-Laurent metro, for example, was built when it opened in 1967. We have to be aware that we have aging infrastructure, so we have to continue our maintenance efforts,” she said. hammered. She admits, however, that it is not impossible that this kind of event happens again. “We could have more cracks, maybe. […] We do not expect that with the measures in place, but we are never safe. If it becomes necessary to do so, the STM does not rule out “carrying out longer maintenance nights”. Currently, maintenance employees only have a few hours to complete the work overnight. However, a “subway tunnel vault structure inspection plan” had already been launched in recent years and will continue.

According to Pierre Barrieau, an expert in transport planning at the University of Montreal, the metro comes at a pivotal moment. “We are entering a long period of permanent works. In the medium term, this may mean more and more frequent closings, a longer night period, or an hour or two less of service every day to allow for longer work cycles,” he reasons. “Already, the metro had a significant accumulated maintenance deficit, but now we are coming to large investments that are coming in the maintenance of assets,” continues Mr. Barrieau. The latter cites the example of the New York subway, “which entered a period of great decline at the turn of the 1960s because its equipment was reaching the end of its useful life, and the City did not have the financial means. to carry out all the work required”. “We had seen a lot more breakdowns and all kinds of problems then,” he says.

At the start of the day, Tuesday, some users were divided. “It worries my wife since she takes the subway every day to go to work. It is certain that she was concerned this morning, “said Montrealer Marc Biron, who was going to an appointment when La Presse arrested him. “You have to remember that the metro was built in the late 1960s. It’s cement, and we have four seasons, lots of rain, lots of frost. I think it’s normal what happens. You just have to manage it well, ”added the 69-year-old man, who will benefit from free public transport from July, a promise fulfilled by the Plante administration. “I already have my pass ready for this.” The metro is still the best option for getting around town, ”said the sixty-something, all smiles.