Stage 1 comprises a 16km 19-station light rail line from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo city to Fairview Park Mall in neighbouring Kitchener, together with a 17km Bus Rapid Transit line from Fairview Park to Ainslie Street in Cambridge. Studies are now underway for Stage 2, which involves converting the BRT line to light rail.

To celebrate the opening, travel across the entire Grand River Transit (GRT) network will be free-of-charge until July 1.

Ion Stage 1 was implemented by the GrandLinq consortium under a 33-year design, build, finance, operate, and maintain contract awarded in 2014. GrandLinq comprises Plenary Group Canada; Meridiam Infrastructure Waterloo; Aecon; Kiewit; Mass Electric Construction Canada; Keolis; STV Canada Construction and CIBC World Markets.

Keolis will operate the line for 10 years and maintain it for 30 years. Ion represents Keolis’ first light rail operation in North America.

“We began testing and commissioning the trams and control centre in July 2017,” explains Mr Bernard Tabary, international CEO for Keolis. “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.”

Bombardier supplied 14 Flexity Freedom low-floor LRVs with an option for 14 additional vehicles. Each 30m-long five-section vehicle accommodates 56 seated passengers and 144 standees.

Services will operate at eight-minute headways at peak times and every 15 minutes off-peak. The line is forecast to carry around 25,000 passengers per day and is integrated into the GRT fare system.