Trillium Line

Trillium Line
The Trillium Line (French: Ligne Trillium), also called O-Train Line 2 (French: Ligne 2 de l'O-Train), is a diesel light rail transit (DLRT) service in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, operated by OC Transpo. The line is part of the O-Train light rail system. On May 3, 2020, the Trillium Line was shut down for two years to accommodate the extension and upgrading of the line. Replacement buses will serve each station during the construction period.
From 2001 until 2020, the line ran north–south on a railway line, from Bayview to Greenboro, a distance of approximately 8 kilometres (5 mi). It is isolated from road traffic, but shares tracks with other trains; after operating hours, the section of track south of Walkley Yard has been infrequently used by Ottawa Central for freight service to the National Research Council of Canada's Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre located near Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport.
Between 2013 and 2015, there was an upgrade of the line, including the complete replacement of the train fleet, in order to cut wait times during peak periods from 15 minutes to 12 minutes and eventually to 8–10 minutes. The upgrade was a precursor to extending the line southwards by four stations.
In 2022, a 16-kilometre (9.9 mi) extension and upgrade to the existing line is expected to be completed, adding eight new stations and a connection to the Macdonald–Cartier International Airport
Until 2020, the Trillium Line operated on a single-track rail line with five stations and three passing loops. With the exception of Carleton, all stations have only a single platform.
It is legally considered a federally-regulated mainline railway despite being used for local public transport purposes, and the service it provides is, in terms of its route and service frequency, more like that of an urban railway than a metro or tramway. The line is operated by the City of Ottawa under the official name "Capital Railway", which appears on the trains along with their regular logo.
Pilot project
The Trillium Line was introduced on October 15, 2001, as a pilot project to provide an alternative to the Transitway bus rapid transit on which Ottawa had long depended exclusively for its high-grade transit service. The single-track line operated with five stations and a single passing loop at Carleton station.
As a pilot project, the Trillium Line system was built at the cost of CA$21 million, relatively little compared with the hundreds of millions of dollars usually required to build a new transit line. It runs on an existing Canadian Pacific Railway track (Ellwood and Prescott subdivisions of Bytown and Prescott Railway), so the only construction work necessary was to build the stations themselves and the passing tracks necessary to allow trains to operate in both directions
From 2001 until 2015, the system used three diesel-powered Bombardier Talent BR643 low-floor diesel multiple unit trains. It was, however, described as "light rail", partly because plans called for it to be extended into Ottawa’s downtown as a tramway-like service, and partly because the Talent vehicles, though designed for mainline railways in Europe, are much smaller and lighter than most mainline trains in North America, and do not meet the Association of American Railroads' standards for crash strength. Ottawa is also authorized to run trains with only a single operator and no other crew, something rare on mainline railways in North America.
Until late 2014, the official name of the diesel-powered, north–south line was "O-Train". After construction started on a second, east–west light rail line (the Confederation Line), the O-Train name was applied to the entire system, and the north–south line was renamed the "Trillium Line".
Original service
Ticketing on the Trillium Line originally worked entirely on a proof-of-payment basis; there were no ticket barriers or turnstiles, and the driver did not check fares. Occasionally, OC Transpo Special Constables or other employees prompted passengers for proof-of-payment. Tickets can be purchased from a vending machine on the platform, and certain bus passes are also valid for the Trillium Line. Trillium Line tickets were exchanged for bus transfers upon boarding a bus. Although bus transfers can be used to board the O-Train, prepaid bus tickets cannot.
The European trains are narrower than the North American standard. In order to enable night-time use of the line by standard-width freight services, retractable platform extenders are mounted at each station (other than Bayview which is constructed on its own private rail spur). Passengers gain access to the Trillium Line on these extenders. If the line is used for freight, the extenders are retracted allowing a wider train to pass through the station. The extender interface with the train has been refined over time, and cyclists and wheelchair users now have no trouble accessing the train.
The service frequency of a train every fifteen minutes made it possible to run the line with a fleet of just three trains (of which only two were in service at any given time) and a single track, apart from passing sidings at Carleton station.
The Trillium Line hit the 1-millionth rider mark on May 29, 2002, the 5-millionth mark on January 21, 2005, and the 10-millionth in late 2010. In mid-2011, the Trillium Line carried an average of approximately 12,000 riders each day.
  • In June 2002, the O-Train Light Rail Transit project received the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s Corporate Innovation Award.
  • On January 16, 2003, the Ontario chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) presented the City of Ottawa, Canadian Pacific Railway and Morrison Hershfield with the APWA Public Works Project of the Year award in the transportation category. This award was established to highlight excellence in the management and administration of public works projects by recognizing the alliance between the managing agency, the consultant and the contractors who, working together, complete public works projects.
  • A third award the Trillium Line light rail transit project received was in May 2003, in the sustainable transportation category of the FCM-CH2M Hill Sustainable Community Awards
Criticism of pilot project
The main complaints about the Trillium Line pilot have revolved around its placement and ridership levels. The Trillium Line's route was determined by existing railway tracks, rather than the parts of the city that needed public transport, which would have required new tracks to be laid. Carleton University students, however, benefited from the Trillium Line pilot project, as it connected the university to the busy Ottawa Transitway system.
The other criticism is that there is very low ridership of the trains compared to some very crowded bus lines such as the 90–99 series routes. One fully loaded Trillium Line train carries 285 passengers compared to 131 passengers for an articulated bus. The O-Train schedule is limited by track capacity.
Early extension plans
In July 2006, Ottawa City Council approved a north–south light rail expansion project. The project would have terminated diesel light rail service on the Trillium Line so as to reuse its right-of-way for a double-track, electric light rail line that would have extended west from the University of Ottawa to Bayview then south to Leitrim and then west to Barrhaven. However, in December 2006, Ottawa City Council cancelled this project, thus leaving the diesel-powered Trillium Line unchanged.
Service improvements
  • On May 18, 2011, OC Transpo approved a $200,000 study to expand the Trillium Line. The $59-million proposal included the purchase of six new trainsets and track improvements that would increase headways to eight minutes from fifteen. The project would finally cost $60.3 million.
  • In mid-2013, service on the Trillium Line was suspended for four months to implement service and track improvements such as new station platforms and two new passing tracks (near Brookfield and Gladstone). Upgrades were also made to the signal system, train controls, stations, tracks and train yard. A new centralized traffic control system was installed to improve safety and efficiency. Six new Alstom Coradia LINT trainsets (replacing the three older Bombardier Talent units) and the two extra passing loops allowed the number of trains on the line to double to four.
  • Expanded service began on March 2, 2015, but suffered numerous problems during the first week. Although the changes were intended to improve frequency to eight minutes, the Trillium Line would ultimately operate at twelve minute frequency. After the completion of the Stage 2 project, the line was originally planned to continue operating using single-car trains; however, because of the lower-than-intended frequency, the city was forced to adjust the Stage 2 plan to include longer trains and platforms to compensate.
On August 11, 2014, train C3 derailed while traveling northbound over the switch just south of Carleton Station. The cause was determined to be a faulty spring switch that had not closed properly as well as the operator failing to follow regulations and physically inspect the switch after spotting a signal irregularity. No serious injuries occurred as a result of the derailment, however train C3 received damage and was taken out of service. C3 was never repaired and never returned to service and as a result the line continued to operate with only two operational trains until the following March when the new Alstom LINT trains entered service. In June 2017, the spring switches at Carleton were replaced with powered switches.
Stage 2 expansion
  • As part of the city's Stage 2 LRT project, the Trillium Line will be extended 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) in the south, including a 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) branch to Macdonald–Cartier International Airport and the EY Centre, with four new stations at South Keys, Leitrim, Bowesville and Limebank in Riverside South. There will be a new passing loop at South Keys station and the track will be fully doubled from the Leitrim Road overpass to Limebank station. The full extension will be grade separated. In addition, two more stations will be built along the existing portion of the line at Gladstone and Walkley. The project will also include a number of other significant upgrades including the lengthening of all existing passing loops, the purchase of seven new trains, the doubling in length of all existing platforms, the grade separation of the Ellwood diamond to allow Via trains to cross underneath the Trillium Line, the rehabilitation of rail bridges over the Rideau River and of the Dow's Lake rail tunnel, the upgrading of the signalling system to allow the implementation of positive train control, the construction of several new pedestrian tunnels and overpasses, and numerous guideway and vehicle rehabilitation projects. The contract for this project was approved on March 7, 2019, by city council, with construction of the airport spur beginning in mid-2019. The project is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022.
  • The 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) airport link will run from Macdonald–Cartier International Airport north to South Keys station, where riders will need to change trains to continue to Bayview station. South Keys station will feature an island platform to facilitate cross-platform transfers for passengers arriving from the airport branch to trains bound for Bayview station. The city is not contributing any money to this spur, with the funding instead coming from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the airport authority.
  • On February 22, 2019, the city announced that the selected proponent to construct the project was TransitNEXT, a wholly owned subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin. This decision was controversial as the federal government and SNC-Lavalin were involved in a political scandal at the time, which led to extra scrutiny by city councillors, with some calling for a delay on the vote to approve the contract in order to allow more time for review. Ultimately Council voted not to delay the approval and the contract was approved on March 7, 2019. It was later revealed that TransitNEXT's bid had not met the minimum technical scoring threshold in order to be considered, which continued the controversy. The city eventually explained that the decision to award the contract to TransitNEXT was done at the discretion of city staff to get a better deal for the city and was within the rules of the procurement process. An investigation conducted by the city's auditor general later confirmed that the authority delegated by council gave city staff sole discretion on whether to allow a bid to proceed even if it had not met the minimum scoring threshold, and that staff had otherwise correctly followed the entire procurement process that had been approved by council.
  • Work on the Stage 2 extension began in mid-2019, starting with the clear-cutting of trees along the corridors that will be used by the extension. Construction of the airport spur is expected to be completed in 2020 to give the airport authority time to rebuild the terminal and connect it to the future station.
Further extensions

Extending the Trillium Line across the Ottawa River into Gatineau across the Prince of Wales Bridge had been proposed as early as the original pilot project proposal. The city's certificate of fitness for the Trillium Line, issued by the Canadian Transportation Authority in 2001, indicates that it operates between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, despite the line never having actually operated across the river. The city even considered converting the rail bridge into a pedestrian crossing at one point. When the city announced the contract awards for Stage 2, it also presented a map of the O-Train network that included proposed extensions that would be a part of a Stage 3 phase, including extensions to Kanata, Barrhaven, and Gatineau. On September 24, 2019, the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau jointly announced that they no longer intended to use the Prince of Wales bridge for any kind of rail connection, citing capacity concerns at Bayview station. Despite the announcement, the future of the bridge remains uncertain since city staff later indicated that the bridge is still in the city's long term transit plans, though it could be converted for use as a pedestrian bridge in the interim. More on the future of the bridge as a rail link will be announced in the second quarter of 2020 when the city of Gatineau will present the results of a long-term transit study.

As of 2019, ticket barriers are installed and operational in all Line 2 stations. They were initially installed in all stations except for Bayview in order to test the hardware and software of the fare gate system before it was installed in all thirteen stations on the Line 1 Confederation Line.
The Trillium Line stations have large, bus-style sheltered waiting areas for passengers. All stations have level boarding platforms to allow for wheelchair access and easier boarding for all passengers. Elevators are available at Greenboro (for Transitway riders), Carling (for Line 2 riders) and Bayview (for train transfers within the fare-paid zone).
Trillium Line (Line 2)
Station Notes
  • Bayview The northbound terminus for the Trillium Line, this station provides an interchange with the Confederation Line (Line 1) in a fare-paid zone and access to the Transitway nearby on Wellington Street. Two public washrooms are located in the Trillium Line waiting area. The station is located on a stub-end track branching off from the railway line, immediately under the Transitway overpass. It is the closest Trillium Line station to downtown Ottawa.
  • Corso Italia Originally planned to be part of the pilot project but was cut for budgetary reasons. A passing loop was added in 2013 to increase train frequency and line capacity. It is the site of a future station that will feature two platforms on a double track extending from approximately the Beech Street underpass all the way to the terminus at Bayview station.
  • Dow's Lake Located at Carling Avenue and Preston Street. South of Carling, the train enters a tunnel to pass under Dow's Lake.
  • Carleton Serves Carleton University and has separate tracks and platforms for each direction. Until the upgrade of the line in 2013, this station had the only passing loop along the line. South of Carleton, the train crosses over the Rideau River on a bridge.
  • Mooney's Bay Originally known as "Confederation" after the Confederation Heights area (Heron and Bronson intersection), the station was renamed on December 24, 2018, to avoid confusion with the Confederation Line. It serves Government of Canada offices in the surrounding area, including Canada Post.
  • Walkley Originally planned to be part of the pilot project but was cut for budgetary reasons. A passing loop was added in 2013 just north of Walkley to increase train frequency and line capacity. It is the site of a future station immediately south of Walkley Road and near the existing Transitway station.
  • Greenboro Provides an interchange with a large Transitway station, which has a large park-and-ride lot and is located next to the South Keys Shopping Centre. The Trillium Line platform is level with the pedestrian overpass crossing the Transitway.
  • South Keys Future connection between the main portion of Line 2 and the airport rail link. It will be a centre-platform station in the middle of a double-tracked segment and include a pocket track just north of the station for storing a trainset on layup. The rail link trains are projected to arrive and depart in sync with the Line 2 trains.
  • Leitrim Adjacent to the existing station and park-and-ride lot. This station will feature two platforms and an expanded park-and-ride lot.
  • Bowesville Located just east of Bowesville Road. This station will feature two platforms and will be the site of a new park-and-ride lot.
  • Limebank The southbound terminus for the Trillium Line, it will be located just west of Limebank Road and south of Earl Armstrong Road. This station will serve the Riverside South community within an expansive area zoned for commercial and retail purposes. As with the Bayview terminus station, it will feature a public washroom.
Airport Link (Line 4)
Station Notes
  • South Keys The northbound terminus for the Airport Link, this station provides an interchange with the Trillium Line (Line 2) in a fare-paid zone, and access to the Transitway nearby.
  • Uplands Will be built East of Uplands Drive next to the EY Centre and will feature two platforms. It will be the location of the only passing loop on the spur.
  • Airport The southbound terminus for the Airport Link, it will be located at the Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport and built into the renovated terminal at the departures level.
  • The Trillium Line initially used three Bombardier Talent diesel multiple unit (DMU) trains for service. Each train (numbered C1–C3) consisted of three cars, with the front and rear powered and the centre towed. The trains were originally ordered by Deutsche Bahn and later delivered to OC Transpo. After being retired in 2015, the units were put up for auction multiple times but a deal to sell the vehicles was never successfully established. They are now slated to be scrapped.
  • In September 2011, Alstom announced that it would deliver six new two-car Coradia LINT train sets in 2013; the trains were handed over to OC Transpo in June 2013. These trains were put into service on March 2, 2015, and the Bombardier Talent units were subsequently retired.
  • On May 3, 2018, it was announced that the city would be purchasing seven new Stadler FLIRT trains to use on the extended Trillium Line after the completion of Stage 2. These trains will be approximately 80 metres (262 ft) long, which is double the 41-metre (135 ft) length of the current Coradia LINT trains. The new trains will operate alongside coupled pairs of the existing LINT trains on the main line as part of a mixed fleet. These vehicles will be manufactured in Switzerland before being transported to Canada for final assembly. The trains will have a diesel-electric drive with the possibility of future electrification.
          Class Type Number of doors Top speed Number Built Years of service
  • Bombardier Talent BR643 DMU 3 per side 100 km/h (62 mph) 3 three-car sets
  • (9 cars total) 1999 Trillium Line (2001–2015)
  • Alstom Coradia LINT 41 DMU 2 per side 140 km/h (87 mph) 6 two-car pairs
  • (12 cars total) 2013 Trillium Line (2015–)

Airport Link (2022–)

  • Stadler FLIRT3 DEMU 8 per side 130 km/h (81 mph) 7 four-car sets
  • (28 cars total, not including power packs) TBD Trillium Line (2022–)

Train sets are stored at the Walkley Yard located northeast of the Greenboro station. Before their retirement, the Bombardier Talent trainsets were maintained by Bombardier Transportation at the Walkley facilities. Bombardier continues to perform maintenance of the Trillium Line fleet, which included standstill maintenance of the retired Bombardier Talent trains until March 8, 2018. The Walkley Yard was built in 1955 by the National Capital Commission for the Canadian National Railways and later sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway. The yard has enclosed buildings for repairs and outdoor storage tracks.

As part of the Stage 2 project, a new maintenance facility will be built adjacent and to the west of the existing facilities. The construction of the new yard facilities began in 2019.

Trillium Line
Status: Closed for expansion
Owner: City of Ottawa
Locale: Ottawa, Ontario
Stations: 5 (+8 under construction)
Service Type: Light rail
System: O-Train
Operator(s); OC Transpo under the name Capital Railway
Rolling stock;
Alstom Coradia LINT
Stadler FLIRT
Daily ridership: 20,000 (avg. weekday, Q4 2019)
Ridership: 3,922,500 (2018)
History: Opened October 15, 2001
Line length: 8 km (5 mi)
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge
Electrification: None
Signalling: Canadian Rail Operating Rules
Train protection system: Indusi, PTC (future)
Route map
Confederation Line
Corso Italia
Dow's Lake
Rideau Canal
Rideau River
Mooney's Bay
Walkley Yard
Southeast Transitway
South Keys 4
Southeast Transitway
Line 4
Detailed List of Stops
former CPR Ellwood Subdivision
now QGR Lachute Subdivision
Prince of Wales Bridge over Ottawa River
/Quebec-Ontario border
Confederation Line
to Tunney's Pasture │ to Blair
Corso Italia (2022)
Highway 417 (Queensway)
Dow's Lake
tunnel under Rideau Cana
Dow's Lake
Rideau River
Mooney's Bay
Airport Parkway / Bronson Avenue
Ellwood Diamond Via Rail
Heron Transitway to Billings Bridge
Walkley (2022)
Walkley Yard
Walkley Diamond
South Keys (2022)
irport Link to Airport
Leitrim (2022)
Transitway to Airport
former OCR Prescott Subdivision
Bowesville (2022)
Limebank (2022)
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