ION Light Rail Transit launched in Ontario, Canada

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
light-rail transit

The first of the two phases of the ION Light Rail Transit (LRT), the region of Waterloo’s new rapid transit system in Ontario, Canada, was launched June 21 at Kitchener’s Fairway station. The modern system will serve the residents and visitors of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, as well as surrounding rural municipalities. As part of the GrandLinq Consortium, Keolis Grand River, Keolis’ local subsidiary, is responsible for the 16-km light-rail line operations for the next 10 years and maintenance for the next 30 years. The contract, which was awarded in May 2014, is under a public-private partnership (PPP). This is Keolis’ first light-rail operation in North America.

The ION LRT is transformative for the region of Waterloo, which is the fourth largest community in Ontario with an existing population of over half a million. The network is funded by all three levels of government and fully integrated within the region of Waterloo’s existing public transport service, Grand River Transit (GRT). The transport options, for which just one fare applies, will be flexible and inclusive as the population grows.

This light rail is core to the region’s ambitious master plan for sustainable mobility to create a one urban area, from the three cities, and to increase the attractiveness of the Technological Triangle of Canada.

The trams will run on a dedicated rapid route along tracks isolated from regular traffic, except at intersections and road crossings. The project is divided into two phases. Phase 2 studies are underway.

ION light rail TRANSIT system at a glance:

  • 16-km network with 19 stations (25,000 passengers per day expected).
  • 14 accessible, low-floor, comfortable, electric and silent light rail vehicles (LRVs) made by Bombardier (Ontario) operating every eight minutes during peak hours with off-peak schedule of 15 minutes frequency.
  • 200 passengers capacity per vehicle.
  • ION Light Rail will be fully integrated within the existing GRT network – ION and GRT will be one system with one fare.
  • 40 LRV operators participated in an extensive training program (120+ hours).
  • The Control Room will feature 15 employees supervising train operations, power management and coordinating incident response 24/7 all year round.
  • 30 technicians and engineers will monitor and maintain the LRVs and the infrastructure.



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