Noise is not just an issue for the Réseau express métropolitain (REM). The railway lines crossing Old Montreal are also increasingly contested, with the population living nearby having tripled in the past 15 years. A month after the derailment of a freight train, residents and traders are calling for better maintenance of the track or a review of crossing times to limit nuisance.
“On a daily basis, it makes a lot of noise, especially since even at night, it circulates,” says Lula Manz, who has lived in Old Montreal for two years. In his eyes, the industry “should look at whether there is a way to pass trains with less impact on the community”. “It’s always good to question yourself,” she says bluntly.
This questioning is all the more necessary as this former industrial sector is increasingly inhabited. A little less than 5,000 people lived near the rails in 2006, according to Statistics Canada data: there are now around 15,000.
At the Association of Residents of Old Montreal (ARVM), president Christine Caron confirms having received several complaints about the passage of trains. His group even held a meeting with Canadian National (CN) and the Port of Montreal on this subject recently. Residents are asking in particular if it is possible to take additional measures to further lubricate the wheels or rails, or even reduce the number of trains or review timetables, in order to reduce noise.
“There are two problems: the first is in the curve in front of the silo no 5 where it is very noisy. And the second is towards the Faubourg Québec sector, where train movements really resemble a marshalling yard. And that’s day and night, so the impacts are significant,” illustrates Mme Because we. She deplores that few actions are taken. “For the schedules, for example, we are simply told that it is not possible to change them as the network is connected to Chicago. »
The owner of the craft brewery BreWskey, Guillaume Couraud, also knows something about it. “You can hear the train and there’s a lot of squeaking, so it’s not very pleasant to the ear. If they managed to put it elsewhere, I think it would suit everyone here,” says the businessman, whose establishment is located in the Bonsecours market.
Not far from there, at the Ça Roule Montreal bicycle rental workshop, manager Guillaume Fournier seconds. “We have school groups, and when we go to the islands and have to pass under the Bonaventure highway, sometimes we can be stuck for up to 30 minutes because a train is passing. Otherwise, it’s noise. We close the doors because we can’t even talk to each other anymore,” he says.
We wake up at 2 a.m., go to sleep at 3 a.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. Nobody cares about the noise here.
Jacques Rivard, a resident of Old Montreal
“The locomotives, if they were on a straight track, it would surely be better. There, it squeaks because it forces you in the curve,” insists Jacques Rivard, who lives opposite the railway tracks.
“I call it the train from hell,” says Valérie, a long-time resident of Old Montreal. “Every time, it almost automatically wakes me and my neighbors. The squealing of the wheels is really loud. We really need concrete solutions,” she also maintains.
No magic solution
However, the logistics chain is such that reducing the number of trains or revising their schedule is impossible, says the Port of Montreal. Its director of communications, Renée Larouche, explains that the Old Montreal railway “is of primordial importance for the population and must be maintained, since it constitutes a gateway to consumer products and a gateway to exit for exports”.
Present for at least 150 years, this railway network is more than 100 kilometers long and allows transcontinental railways “to have access to almost all berths”, says Mme Larouche.
Every week, the Port of Montreal receives 60 to 80 trains. Of these, approximately 14 trains and 12 local convoys pass through Old Montreal, which roughly represents 2 trains and 2 convoys per day. Their number has neither increased nor decreased in recent years, certifies Mme Larouche.
Currently, about 45% of goods passing through the port are transported by train. Moreover, “work on a rail capacity optimization project is about to end in November,” says the spokesperson, specifying that this project “allowed the addition of two railway tracks totaling and increasing the current network by almost 5 km”.
“We are concerned about the cohabitation of users in Old Montreal,” assures Renée Larouche. She maintains that “various measures and initiatives have been put in place” for several years, including a complaints management system. A representative of the Port of Montreal is also present at the various citizen consultation tables.
At the Canadian National (CN), which uses the railway tracks of Old Montreal, spokesperson Mathieu Gaudreault shows a certain openness. “Even though the relocation of rail sections is a complex and expensive process, CN is always open and available to discuss its activities with the various partners involved in order to evaluate the options available,” he explains.
CN is not the only one to use the Old Port track, but on a daily basis, “a train entering the port and a train leaving the port run on this section, five days a week,” notes Mr. Gaudreault. “The number of passages is subject to change depending on the needs of our partner,” he adds.
Noise, but also security
In addition to noise, the issue of safety continues to concern many stakeholders in Old Montreal, especially since last August, an investigation was opened after the derailment of a car and two locomotives from a freight train , in the Old Port. In the neighborhood, the affair caused a stir. It was an “obstruction” on the rails which forced the train to be immobilized for several hours.
At the ARVM, Christine Caron says today that she “can’t wait to see the result of this investigation”. “We have certain concerns about the products that are transported on trains. Until now, we relied a lot on the reduced speed, telling ourselves that the risks were minimal. But all that [soulève] questions,” she concludes, reiterating that zero risk does not exist.
In 2016, passengers who were in the “Amphibus”, a tourist coach, had the fear of their lives when the vehicle was hit by a train, very close to the railway tracks near the silo no 5. The event forced a debate on the need to strengthen signage measures and add safety equipment.
Videos posted online showed the fright of passengers, with many screaming due to the force of the impact.
Ten years ago, in June 2013, a 30-year-old young woman, Pritie Patel, had her legs cut by a train in the Old Port while trying to cross between stationary wagons which blocked access to her vehicle. The train left without warning, dragging the victim several meters.