Keolis launches its first North American light rail operation in Canada’s Region of Waterloo

Waterloo Region, June 21, 2019 – The first of the two phases of the ION Light Rail Transit (LRT) – Region of Waterloo’s new rapid transit system in Ontario, Canada – was launched today 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[1], 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.

A major project which requires great expertise

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.

Keolis - which currently operates 25 tram networks in the world - will use its expertise to ensure the smooth operation and maintenance of the ION LRT.

We are delighted to start operating the light rail for Region of Waterloo” says Clément Michel, President and CEO of Keolis in North America. “We began testing and commissioning the trams and control center in July 2017. Now, with responsibility for operating and maintaining the ION LRT for Region of Waterloo, we’re looking forward to enhancing quality of life in the region for many years to come. Supporting cities and regions in developing sustainable, accessible and comfortable mobility solutions is in our DNA. We’re proud to accompany Region of Waterloo’s authorities and residents in shaping the region’s public transport with this new network, which is our first light rail operation in North America.”


[1] Also composed of Plenary, Meridiam, Kiewit and Aecon

This light rail is core to the Region's ambitious master plan for sustainable mobility to create a one urban area, from the 3 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.

As part of the launch celebrations, all Grand River Transit services — both trams and buses — will be free to ride for 11 days from the kick-off on June 21 to July 1. Monthly pass holders will get a $10 discount.

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.