Trillium Line

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Trillium Line
Ottawa - Line 2 Trillium Line.svg
Ligne Trillium Line logo.svg
O-Train after Bayview Station 16171195227.jpg
Train departing Bayview station
TypeLight rail
LocaleOttawa, Ontario
Stations5 (+8 approved)
Daily ridership16,900 (avg. weekday, Q4 2017)[1]
Ridership4.194 million (2017)[1]
WebsiteO-Train Trillium Line
OpenedOctober 15, 2001
OwnerCity of Ottawa
Operator(s)OC Transpo under the name Capital Railway
Rolling stock
Line length8 km (5 mi)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Route map

Mooney's Bay
Walkley Yard
South Keys
Airport Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport
Detailed diagram
former CPR Ellwood Subdivision
Highway 417 (Queensway)
tunnel under Rideau Canal
Mooney's Bay
Ellwood Diamond Via Rail
Walkley Diamond
former OCR Prescott Subdivision
Capital Railway
Capital Railway Logo.png
Reporting markCR
LocaleOntario and Quebec
HeadquartersWalkley Yard

The Trillium Line (French: Ligne Trillium) 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.

The present line runs 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 shared 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.

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 also a precursor to extending the line southwards by four stations.[2]

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 Macdonald–Cartier International Airport.[3] The Trillium Line will be shutdown beginning in May 2020 to accommodate construction of the extension.[4][5]


The Trillium Line operates 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.[6]


Pilot project[edit]

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[7]), 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,[8] 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".[9]

Original service[edit]

Carleton is the only station with two platforms. Note retractable platform extenders at solid yellow markings.
Interior of the Bombardier Talent carriages (2001–2015)

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.[10] In mid-2011, the Trillium Line carried an average of approximately 12,000 riders each day.[11]


In June 2002, the O-Train Light Rail Transit project received the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s Corporate Innovation Award.[12]

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.[13]

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.[12]

Criticism of pilot project[edit]

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.[14] The O-Train schedule is limited by track capacity.

Early extension plans[edit]

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[edit]

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.[11] The project would finally cost $60.3 million.[2]

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).[2][15] 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.[2] 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.[8] Although the changes were intended to improve frequency to eight minutes, the Trillium Line would ultimately operate at twelve minute frequency.[16]


On August 11, 2014, train C3 derailed while traveling northbound over the switch just south of Carleton Station.[17] 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[18] 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.[19]


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 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) branch to Macdonald–Cartier International Airport, with four stations at South Keys, Leitrim, Bowesville and Limebank in Riverside South. There will be a new passing loop at South Keys and beyond Leitrim the track will be fully doubled. 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.[20] 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 conversion of the signalling system to an implementation of positive train control, the construction of several new pedestrian tunnels and overpasses, and numerous guide way and vehicle rehabilitation projects.[21] The contract for this project was approved on March 7, 2019, by city council,[22] with construction of the airport spur beginning in mid-2019. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.

The 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) airport branch will run from Macdonald–Cartier International Airport north to South Keys station, where riders will need to change trains to continue to 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.[23]

On February 22, 2019, the city announced that the selected proponent to construct the project was TransitNEXT, a wholly owned subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin.[24][25] 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.[22] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28]

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.[29][30]

Further extensions[edit]

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.[31] The city even considering converting the rail bridge into a pedestrian crossing at one point.[32] 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.[33] 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. The bridge is to be converted into a pedestrian and cycling crossing sometime in the future.[34]


As of 2018, ticket barriers (turnstiles) have been installed in all stations except Bayview, serving as a test of this system, which was later used in all stations on the Confederation Line.

The Trillium Line stations have sheltered waiting areas for passengers, but at three stations, these are only large bus-style shelters beside the tracks. The exceptions are Carling, where an elevator building is required since the tracks are below street level, and Greenboro, where a covered walkway extends towards the nearby South Keys Shopping Centre. All stations have level boarding platforms to allow for wheelchair access and easier boarding for all passengers.

Station Notes
Bayview Provides an interchange with the Transitway and the Confederation Line.[35] The station is located on a stub-end track branching off from the railway line, immediately under the Wellington Street and Transitway overpasses. It is currently the closest Trillium Line station to downtown Ottawa.
Carling 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 Located at Heron Road and Bronson Avenue, and primarily serves Government of Canada offices in the Confederation Heights area.
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.

Future stations[edit]

Station Notes
Main line
Gladstone Originally planned to be part of the pilot project but was cut for budgetary reasons.[36] A passing loop was added in 2013 to increase train frequency and line capacity.[15] It is the site of a future station that will feature two platforms.[20]
Walkley Originally planned to be part of the pilot project but was cut for budgetary reasons.[36] A passing loop was added in 2013 just north of Walkley to increase train frequency and line capacity.[15] It is the site of a future station immediately South of Walkley Road and near the existing Transitway station.[20]
South Keys Future connect between the airport spur to the main line.
Leitrim Adjacent to the existing station and park-and-ride lot. This station will feature two platforms.
Bowesville Located just east of Bowesville Road, will feature two platforms, and will be the site of a new park-and-ride lot.
Limebank Located just West of Limebank Road and will service the Riverside South community. It will be one of the only stations to feature a public washroom.
Airport branch
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 Will be located at the Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport.


Interior of Alstom Coradia LINT (2015–present)

The Trillium Line initially used three Bombardier Talent diesel multiple unit (DMU) trains for service. Each train (numbered C1–C3)[18] 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[37] before eventually being sold for C$25,200 on December 14, 2018.[18]

In September 2011, Alstom announced that it would deliver six new two-car Coradia LINT train sets in 2013;[38] the trains were handed over to OC Transpo in June 2013.[39] These trains were put into service on March 2, 2015, and the Bombardier Talent units were subsequently retired.[40]

Class Image Type Number of Doors Top speed Number Routes operated Built Years of service
Bombardier Talent BR643 O-Train C3 at Walkley Yard.jpg DMU 3 per side 100 km/h (62 mph) 3 × 3 car units
(9 cars total)
Bayview–Greenboro 2001 2001–2015
Alstom Coradia LINT 41 J95729 OnOCTotrain 20160815-113119.58 Bayview.jpg DMU 2 per side 140 km/h (87 mph) 6 × 2 pair units
(12 cars total)
South Keys–Airport (future)
2013 2015–Present

Future fleet[edit]

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.[41] These trains will be approximately 80 m (262 ft) long which is double the 41 m (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.[42]

Class Type Number of Doors Top Speed Number Routes operated Entering Service Notes
Stadler FLIRT3 DEMU 8 per side 130 km/h (81 mph)[43] 7 x 4 car units
(28 cars total, not including power packs)
Bayview–Limebank (Stage 2) 2022 Announced on May 3, 2018. Will have a diesel-electric drive with the possibility of future electrification.


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.[44]

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.

Stage 2 replacement[edit]

As part of the Stage 2 project, a new maintenance facility will be built adjacent and to the west to the existing facilities.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter and End-of-Year 2017" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association (APTA). p. 33. Archived from the original (pdf) on March 27, 2018. Retrieved February 26, 2019. (via: )
  2. ^ a b c d "New Trains improve O-Train Trillium Line service". City of Ottawa. March 2, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  3. ^ "Trillium Line South". Stage 2 Ottawa. Archived from the original on November 8, 2019. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  4. ^ Ramlakhan, Krystalle (February 24, 2019). "Students rail against longer-than-expected O-Train shutdown". CBC News. Archived from the original on September 30, 2019. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  5. ^ "Here's what's happening for Stage 2 LRT construction right now". October 24, 2019. Archived from the original on October 28, 2019. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  6. ^ "Decision No. 283-R-2007". June 6, 2007. Archived from the original on April 5, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  7. ^ Duncan, Paul. "Ottawa Railways" (GIF). Retrieved January 12, 2009.
  8. ^ a b "O-Train shut down day after launch of expanded line (with video)". The Ottawa Citizen. March 3, 2015. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  9. ^ "O-Train name approved for Ottawa light rail system". CBC News Network. September 17, 2014. Archived from the original on October 7, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  10. ^ "OC Transpo - Odometer passes 1 Millionth KM!". Archived from the original on January 19, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
  11. ^ a b "Ottawa O-Train extension proposed". Railway Gazette International. May 24, 2011. Archived from the original on May 28, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  12. ^ a b "O-Train Light Rail Project". Archived from the original on January 23, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  13. ^ "". Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  14. ^ "OC Transpo adds new low-floor articulated buses to its fleet". OC Transpo. April 5, 2001. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved January 12, 2009.
  15. ^ a b c Hua, John (September 3, 2013). "Ottawa's O-Train back on track". Bell Media. Archived from the original on September 6, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  16. ^ "Line 2 O-Train schedule". Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  17. ^ Pearson, Matthew (August 22, 2014). "Human error, faulty switch caused O-Train derailment". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on February 17, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  18. ^ a b c "Lot of Three (3) 1999 Bombardier Talent Trainsets and Parts -". Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  19. ^ shadqadri (June 9, 2017). "O-Train Service Adjustment – Carleton Spring Switch/Preventative Maintenance". Shad Qadri. Archived from the original on February 17, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c "Stage 2 - Trillium Line South". City of Ottawa. 2015. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  21. ^ "FAQs: Stage 2 LRT Contract Award" (PDF). p. 12. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  22. ^ a b "City council approves stage 2 of LRT". CTV News Ottawa. Archived from the original on September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  23. ^ "Contract Award of Ottawa's Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Projects and Related Matters" (PDF). February 22, 2019. p. 10. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  24. ^ "Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project" (PDF). February 22, 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  25. ^ "TransitNEXT finalizes Contract for Trillium Line Extension Project". Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  26. ^ Chianello, Joanne (March 22, 2019). "SNC-Lavalin failed to meet technical threshold for $1.6B LRT contract: sources". CBC. Archived from the original on August 15, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  27. ^ Willing, Jon (August 2, 2019). "City admits it let SNC-Lavalin through Stage 2 LRT bidding despite lower technical score". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on August 4, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  28. ^ Willing, Jon (November 26, 2019). "City followed the rules in selecting SNC-Lavalin for LRT Stage 2 project, auditor general finds". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  29. ^ Crawford, Blair (November 14, 2019). "Construction of LRT Stage 2 leaving its mark on the city". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  30. ^ Toolkit, Web Experience (August 1, 2019). "Determination No. R-2019-73". Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  31. ^ "Decision No. 635-R-2006". November 17, 2006. Archived from the original on September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  32. ^ Steele, Alistair (February 2, 2015). "Ad to convert rail bridge over Ottawa River posted early, city says". CBC. Archived from the original on May 4, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  33. ^ "Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project" (PDF). February 22, 2019. p. 109. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 1, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  34. ^ "Mayors rule out Prince of Wales Bridge for transit link". CBC. September 24, 2019. Archived from the original on September 25, 2019. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  35. ^ "Bayview". Archived from the original on October 8, 2019. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  36. ^ a b "Light Rail Pilot Project: Recommended Service Concept and Cost Analysis" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  37. ^ Willing, Jon (December 28, 2016). "City auctioning off Bombardier trains". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  38. ^ "OC Transpo chooses Alstom to supply six new commuter trains to Ottawa". Alstom. September 16, 2011. Archived from the original on November 17, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  39. ^ "In Ottawa, Alstom introduces first European-style commuter trains for North America". Alstom. June 25, 2013. Archived from the original on August 16, 2013. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved January 27, 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  41. ^ "City secures funding to extend O-Train Trillium Line to the heart of Riverside South". May 10, 2018. Archived from the original on August 15, 2019. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  42. ^ Report to: Council (PDF) (Technical report). February 22, 2019. p. 52. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 26, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  43. ^ "Appendix C – Trillium Line EA Addendum Supplementary Terrestrial Information (Ellwood Diamond, Walkley Yard, Bowesville and Limebank) Air Quality Report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 18, 2018. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  44. ^ "Lot of Three (3) 1999 Bombardier Talent Trainsets and Parts -". Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  45. ^ "Relocated Walkley Yard MSF, West of Albion Road" (PDF). January 17, 2016. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 23, 2019. Retrieved February 22, 2019.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is not from Wikidata

Media related to Trillium Line at Wikimedia Commons