ION LRT gets on track in Kitchener and Waterloo

ION LRT vehicles get ready for their maiden voyages at Fairway Station. Kevin Nielsen / Global News

Grand River Transit cut it close on its promise to have the ION LRT vehicles taking passengers through Kitchener and Waterloo by the end of spring.

The first train left the station at Fairway Mall on Friday morning at 11:40 a.m, just minutes before the end of spring.

READ MORE: Why is Waterloo’s new LRT system named ION?

“Isn’t it a beautiful spring morning,” Coun. Tom Galloway joked at the opening ceremony which launched the province’s first new transit system since the 1980s. “It’s a beautiful spring morning but I sense a Solstice about to arrive…

The long-awaited LRT system has been under development since 2012 with its arrival coming months behind schedule.

Galloway, who has helped spearhead the project as part of the region’s Rapid Transit Steering Committee,  also pointed to the economic benefits of the 19-station line which will run through the downtown cores of Kitchener and Waterloo.

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“We are here today to report that with zero passengers carried, there has been $3.282 billion in completed, under construction or building permitted projects in the corridor,” he told the crowd.

“These numbers represent 13,000 new residential units and over four-million square feet of office and commercial space.”

A large crowd had gathered to watch the launch of the first ION train. It included many who had worked on the train, local MPs and MPPs, as well as many current and former regional councillors.

“This is one of the largest and fastest-growing urban centres in Ontario,” said Mike Harris, MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.

“The Waterloo ION LRT project will provide a quick and convenient transportation option to more people between Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, and mean shorter commute times that leave people more time for what matters most.”

READ MORE: Simon says to follow these rules when the ION trains start rolling through Kitchener and Waterloo

Region of Waterloo chair Karen Redman noted how the trains, which can transport 200 passengers in each vehicle, will benefit the region as a whole.

“ION will connect seamlessly with Grand River Transit to create an efficient, easy-to-use public transit system,” she said.

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Redman paid warning to the provincial and federal politicians that she will be knocking on their doors as the region turns its eyes towards the next phase which is intended to continue on from Kitchener to Cambridge.

“Once stage two is complete, ION buses will be replaced with rail creating a continuous LRT system across the region’s three urban centres,” she said.

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