Thanks to a donation from Alstom, students with the Station Polytechnique committee will be giving a second life to an MR-63 car from the Montréal métro, to be permanently installed in the heart of the Lassonde buildings in 2019. This new space will be dedicated to student health and wellness.
On Thursday, May 17, 2018, Polytechnique Montréal marked the inauguration of the Station Polytechnique student committee’s project to recycle and repurpose a legacy MR-63 métro car and integrate it into the Claudette-MacKay-Lassonde and Pierre-Lassonde buildings, along with a $300,000 contribution to the project from Alstom, a key player in rail transport. The event took place in the Lorne-M.-Trottier Atrium, near the future site of the car, which will be named “Station Polytechnique-Alstom.”
The métro car recycling project is an initiative of Polytechnique Montréal student members of the Station Polytechnique committee, who submitted a pitch in response to a 2016 call for projects by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM). Besides recovering and repurposing a piece of Montréal heritage, the project aims to promote health and raise awareness among the student community of mental health issues, while also encouraging creativity.
The project is supported by the Fondation de Polytechnique and is also receiving financial backing from Alstom to enable the car to be refitted over the coming year. In the summer of 2019, it will be installed at Polytechnique on a special base in the service space of an elevator shaft in the atrium on the third floor of the Lassonde buildings. Station Polytechnique-Alstom will sport 22 windows, affording views onto goings-on at Polytechnique.
Measuring 17 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and 3 metres high and weighing 13 tonnes, including all equipment, the MR-63 cars were the first ones to operate in the Montréal métro system when it opened in 1966. Back in the day, a car like the one recovered by the Station Polytechnique committee could carry up to 109 rush-hour passengers.
Focus on student wellness
Station Polytechnique-Alstom will be a centre of attention beginning in the fall of 2019, hosting a program of activities focusing on the health of the student population. The space will be accessible to everyone at all times as a place to relax, read and reflect on original ideas.
Over the past decade, mental health has become a major concern for Canadian universities. In a report published in 2012, the Québec Health and Welfare Commissioner reported that 75% of mental disorders appear before the age of 25 (the group most university students belong to) and that young men are more at risk.
“In recent years, Polytechnique Student Services and the two student associations have conducted several consultations to identify the concerns of Polytechnique students,” explain Raphaël Obonsawin and Érika Lajeunesse, Polytechnique students and members of the Station Polytechnique committee. “The issues that have emerged most clearly are stress related to studies, the trivialization of suffering, incomplete understanding of what services are available, and a lack of places for students to go where they can talk about other things than their studies.”
They add: “With the Station Polytechnique-Alstom project, we intend to address those concerns. The métro car will become a familiar space conducive to conversation and relaxation, and the program of activities will foster greater awareness of the assistance services available at Polytechnique.”
Philippe A. Tanguy, CEO of Polytechnique Montréal, says: “I think it’s important to emphasize that this initiative was developed and supported by passionate students, guided by their creativity and boldness. We are delighted with Alstom’s support for this innovative and multidisciplinary project that will honour a part of engineering heritage right at the heart of Polytechnique while enhancing students’ quality of life.”
Angelo Guercioni, Managing Director, Alstom Canada, says the manufacturer is very pleased to partner with Polytechnique Montréal in ensuring the preservation of part of the history of public transit in Montréal as well as that of Alstom in Québec.
“Our presence in Québec goes back to the hydro megaprojects and also includes the refitting of the original MR-63 cars, which were inspired by the MR-59 cars in the Paris métro,” Mr. Guercioni notes. “As a result, we are very proud of this partnership, not only because the project is immortalizing an iconic symbol of the city and taking us back to our beginnings, but also because the essence of the project speaks to Alstom’s values, and because students are developing it.”
And Isabelle Péan, President and CEO of the Fondation de Polytechnique, says: “Station Polytechnique-Alstom will have an impact that will substantially improve our students’ well-being. With its generous donation, Alstom is making a significant gesture toward the next generation of engineers, and we are grateful for this.”
The story of a project for the ages
In 1963, the City of Montréal contracted Canadian Vickers to build the cars that would travel through the tunnels of the future Montréal métro. Alstom was among the suppliers of the technology that went into the cars’ design.
Fifty years later, the STM announced that the MR-63 cars, which had reached the end of their useful life, would be decommissioned and replaced by newer, more reliable rolling stock. In keeping with its social responsibility values, the transit authority issued a call for projects in 2016 to offer citizens the opportunity to give the cars a second life after their removal from the tracks. The project submitted by the Polytechnique students in April 2016 was one of seven shortlisted by the STM in October of that year, out of 30 proposals received.
The eventual location of the métro car was decided on in June 2017, with input from the Lassonde buildings’ architect. In the summer of 2017, the Fondation de Polytechnique began canvassing for donors to support this major project. After completing a feasibility study in the fall of that year, the school’s administration gave the project its stamp of approval in December. Around the same time, the project’s focus on student wellness was defined.
The Station Polytechnique committee took possession of the legacy métro car on May 2, 2018. It was transported across Montréal on a flatbed truck to a shop where it will be completely refitted for its new mission. The interior design is the work of students in the Planning Faculty of Université de Montréal who entered and won a competition announced by the Station Polytechnique committee in January 2018. Preparatory work began as soon as the car was delivered, and execution of the plans and specifications will proceed through the summer and fall of 2018.
The métro car will make be officially moved to Polytechnique in August 2019. A glass wall opening onto the Lorne-M.-Trottier Atrium of the Lassonde buildings will have to be built before the car is permanently mounted onto its massive steel base. Station Polytechnique-Alstom will then be inaugurated in the fall of 2019.
Originally begun by six students, the Station Polytechnique committee has grown, and now comprises 14 students and alumni of Polytechnique Montréal as well as other universities.
Dignitaries and representatives of the Station Polytechnique student committee who spoke at the event inaugurating the Station Polytechnique-Alstom project and acknowledging Alstom’s donation to the project. L. to r.: Carl Desrosiers, member of the Boards of Directors of Fondation de Polytechnique and Polytechnique Montréal; Isabelle Péan, President and CEO, Fondation de Polytechnique; Catherine Joly-Lapalice, Station Polytechnique representative; Raphaël Obonsawin, Station Polytechnique committee representative; Philippe A. Tanguy, CEO, Polytechnique Montréal; Angelo Guercioni, Managing Director, Alstom Canada; Souheil Abihanna, Vice-President, Operations and Customer Director, Alstom Canada; Denis Tremblay, Chair of the Board, Fondation de Polytechnique.