The Gazette recently endorsed the choice of the CP line as the best route for the long-promised train shuttle between Trudeau airport and downtown (“Readers are right: CP route is miles better,” Editorial, April 18). Admittedly, the CP route has some good arguments in its favour. Chief among them: It’s shorter and would be cheaper to operate.
However those arguments miss a crucial point: The project supported by The Gazette and its readers is of local interest, while linking the airport to downtown would be of national interest.
Montreal is the transport hub of eastern Canada. Airplanes from around the world use Trudeau airport. Trains leaving Central Station drop passengers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Gaspé, Abitibi, Ottawa, Kingston, and Toronto. Connecting the airport and Central Station would strengthen Montreal as a focal destination point in Canada.
The aptly named Central Station terminus is located in the heart of Montreal. Since a significant majority of airport customers originate from, or are bound for, downtown, the CN route would bring them closer to shops, restaurants, bars, office buildings and many of the hotels frequented by them. A direct link from the airport to downtown would also protect air passengers from inclement weather.
In contrast, the CP line terminus at Lucien-L’Allier is isolated. You can’t extend the tracks west by ramming them through the Bell Centre, which is in the way. Choosing this route would force all passengers arriving at Lucien-L’Allier to travel by taxi if they’re headed downtown, or by shuttle to Central Station if they want to travel to the east of the province.
It is vital that Montreal move forward with the implementation of a rail shuttle between the airport and downtown. But to maximize the benefit of this project, we need to stop focusing on local considerations and take a look at the big picture. The CN route, because of its intrinsic advantages, would result in greater attractiveness of Montreal as a tourist destination and venue for conventions and business meetings. It would enhance Trudeau airport’s attractiveness and competitiveness in the North American market, and reaffirm Montreal’s role as the hub of eastern Canada.
Michel Kelly-Gagnon is President and CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute.