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ABB’s Expansion Joint System Helps Expand Sustainable Transportation Possibilities

How two feet is helping connect Canada’s new automated light rail transit network

April 4, 2024

ABB’s Expansion Joint System Helps Expand Sustainable Transportation Possibilities
The REM’s South Shore branch uses the central portion of the new Samuel-De Champlain Bridge

Engineering ingenuity for robust infrastructure

ABB is proud to have designed and produced the expansion joint system used on the Champlain Bridge section of the REM, Montreal. Canada is considered to have one of the best developed infrastructures in the world, making it attractive for businesses, technology and international trade. Investments in infrastructure projects and community improvements are helping ensure the country is well positioned for the future.  

One area of focus is expanding transportation options and passenger mobility while reducing GHG emissions by 100,000 tonnes per year. The largest public transit project in Quebec in the last 50 years is the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) – Canada’s new fully-automated, electric light rail transit network. Connecting with existing bus networks, commuter trains and three lines of the Montreal metro system, the REM will link Montreal’s downtown core, the airport and the Greater Montreal area.

The project

The REM project was initiated to offer transportation to an estimated 170,000 daily passengers. With a section of the REM South Shore branch using the central portion of the new Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, work involved the construction of the necessary infrastructure, including rails and electrical systems. In 2022, T&B Cable Tray Systems® from ABB’s Installation Products division, as well as Superstrut® metal framing, Star Teck® fittings and various other products, were selected for use in building the electrical infrastructure for this section.

Due to the expansion and contraction requirements of transportation infrastructure in climates with extreme temperature fluctuations, cable tray is not frequently specified in such projects. However, as a wire and cable management system alternative, it can offer many benefits when compared with more traditional products such as rigid conduit. 

In addition to protecting and supporting the electrical cables, cable trays facilitate inspection and maintenance because the cables are visible and accessible. They are also easy to install and, compared to conduit systems, are easily reconfigurable to meet future needs.

In the case of the REM South Shore branch over the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, the cable tray had to be able to expand and contract with the bridge’s movement without damaging the wire and cable management system.

The ability of ABB’s local Installation Products team to develop and supply a custom expansion joint system within a very short time frame was the key that opened the door to the use of cable tray and its many advantages in this project.

The challenge

To accommodate the movement of the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, NouvLR, the design and construction consortium responsible for the electrical systems and installation, required a cable tray system that would allow between 24 and 27 inches (60 and 70 centimeters) of play. The standard expansion splice plate normally supplied with T&B Cable Tray Systems® products provides only one inch of play.

A custom expansion joint system was therefore necessary to meet the following requirements:

  • Wider expansion with a range of 24-27 inches (60-70 cm) – up to 24X greater span than standard expansion joints
  • Ability to withstand Montreal’s extreme temperature fluctuations of +30˚C to -30˚C (86˚F to -22˚F)
  • Short lead time – original request in November 2021; delivery required in May-June 2022
  • Engineering collaboration and installation support
ABB’s Expansion Joint System Helps Expand Sustainable Transportation Possibilities
Cable trays, which carry the power cables needed to operate the train, are installed alongside the REM tracks

The solution

Starting in November 2021, the ABB Installation Products research and development team worked closely with NouvLR to develop an expansion joint system solution to meet these requirements. Developing a solution to provide 24 to 27 inches (60 to 70 cm) of play played an important role in supporting the completion of the REM’s South Shore branch over the Champlain Bridge, ensuring that thousands of passengers can travel safely and sustainably from Brossard on the South Shore to Central Station in downtown Montreal.

Working out of ABB’s Iberville facility in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, less than 22 miles (35 km) from the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, the design and engineering teams developed a prototype within only six months.

The product design was optimized for maximum functionality and ease of installation and once the prototype was approved, a quick turnaround was required to deliver the expansion joint system in time to meet the construction schedule. Deliveries began in May and were completed by June 2022.

ABB’s ability to design and deliver a custom expansion joint solution within a seven-month time frame was due in large part to the local presence of the ABB Installation Products team. Through ongoing collaboration with key stakeholders and an agile design and manufacturing process, they were able to successfully meet the challenge.

What’s next?

As ABB’s global center of excellence for cable tray design and manufacturing, the Iberville facility and team has the expertise to produce the custom expansion joint system in a short timeframe. Building on the success of the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge section of the REM project, similar products have been specified for other sections of the REM network. The expansion joint system will be further customized for each section as requirements for expansion will vary depending on the location and the application.

How two feet is helping connect Canada’s new automated light rail transit network
The fully automated and electric REM will be the longest light rail system in the world and will reduce GHG emissions by 100,000 tonnes per year once complete

The new expansion joint system is exclusive to ABB Installation Products. Through innovation and collaboration, the locally based team were able to design and manufacture a custom product solution in an accelerated timeframe and in the process, made cable tray a viable wire and cable management solution for transportation infrastructure projects.

More about the REM and Champlain Bridge

When completed, the fully automated and electric REM will be the longest automated metro in the world and will reduce GHG emissions by 100,000 tonnes per year. With an overall network of 67 kilometers (42 miles), it will include 26 stations integrated with the newly constructed Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, as well as existing bus networks, commuter trains and three lines of the Montreal metro.

The first REM section, the South Shore branch, between Brossard on Montreal’s South Shore and Bonaventure-Central Station, which includes the Champlain Bridge link, opened to the public on July 31, 2023.

One of the largest infrastructure projects in North America, the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge was built to replace the original Champlain Bridge over the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal and is the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world that uses two planes of cables.  The new multimodal crossing provides eight lanes of automobile traffic, two bus lanes and a multi-use lane for cyclists and pedestrians. The central portion of the Champlain Bridge deck will carry the South Shore branch of the REM automated light metro system.


More Information

Custom expansion joint systems from ABB Installation Products are designed and manufactured at ABB’s Iberville production facility.  Visit www.tnb.ca.abb.com to learn more about T&B Cable Tray Systems or contact your local ABB representative for more details.

Related Story

US $13 Million Investment by ABB to Expand Presence in Canada

ABB is investing US $13 million in its Installation Products Division Iberville manufacturing facility in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, to increase production capacity and establish a research & development facility at its global center of excellence for cable tray manufacturing. This will support rising global demand, especially in the data center segment, and is ABB’s second multimillion-dollar investment in a Canadian site in the last 12 months.

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