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.
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".
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.
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.
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
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)
Airport Link (Line 4)
Class Type Number of doors Top speed Number Built Years of service
Airport Link (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.
Status: Closed for expansion
Owner: City of Ottawa
Locale: Ottawa, Ontario
Stations: 5 (+8 under construction)
Service Type: Light rail
Operator(s); OC Transpo under the name Capital Railway
Alstom Coradia LINT
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
Signalling: Canadian Rail Operating Rules
Train protection system: Indusi, PTC (future)
South Keys 4
Detailed List of Stops
former CPR Ellwood Subdivision
now QGR Lachute Subdivision
Prince of Wales Bridge over Ottawa River
to Tunney's Pasture │ to Blair
Corso Italia (2022)
Highway 417 (Queensway)
tunnel under Rideau Cana
Airport Parkway / Bronson Avenue
Ellwood Diamond Via Rail
Heron Transitway to Billings Bridge
South Keys (2022)
irport Link to Airport
Transitway to Airport
former OCR Prescott Subdivision