On June 20, 2018 there was a news release from the Gatineau Mayor’s Office, in French only – Gatineau dévoile son projet préliminaire de système sur rails pour l’ouest. The press conference video for the announcement is also available.
Note this only a proposed system, it is not funded.
UPDATE 2020-06-27: The STO has launched a consultation on how the proposed tramway should arrive on the Ottawa side. Should it go on the surface on Wellington or in a tunnel under Sparks?
There are web pages in English and in French:
- Rail system project for West Gatineau
- Projet préliminaire de système sur rails pour l’ouest de Gatineau
UPDATE 2019-05-31: There is a major new report from the STO with proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end including rail across Portage Bridge.
The focus on the Portage Bridge means that a lot of the analysis below of the Prince of Wales Bridge and Alexandra Bridge no longer applies.
The map and legend aren’t translated. SLR = système(s) de train léger sur rail or in English LRT = Light Rail Transit.
The above map is from page 17 of presentation Rail system project for West Gatineau – June 2018 (PDF). The deck is also available in French: Présentation du projet de système sur rails dans l’ouest de Gatineau – Juin 2018 (PDF), and I have put a copy of the French map on Flickr: Gatineau – carte du tracé proposé pour le système sur rails.
Connection to Rapibus
You can see that the (currently disused) Prince of Wales bridge (pont Prince de Galles) is the key connection point, as it would connect both to the proposed west-end rail system and to the existing STO Rapibus (Bus Rapid Transit system) shown in green in the map above and below.
Above map from Figure 1 page 8 of Le RAPIBUS : Vecteur de changement, Bilan 2013-2018 (PDF).
STO Rapibus Station Taché-UQO at 100 Boulevard Alexandre-Taché is right next to the (disused) rail line that crosses the Prince of Wales bridge from Ottawa.
So the proposed scenario has Gatineau’s rail line crossing the Prince of Wales bridge to Ottawa’s OC Transpo Bayview Station, where OC Transpo east-west Line 1 and north-south Line 2 already intersect.
Here it gets kind of complicated because Ottawa has also proposed extending its own train system over the Prince of Wales bridge, presumably by continuing Line 2 north. (Just as a historical note, there used to be an entire rail corridor loop that these disused rails serviced, from Ottawa to Gatineau and back again. This is not new infrastructure. You can see a video: A train ride from Union Station Ottawa to Bayview via Hull 1966.)
(I gather there are additional complexities that I don’t quite follow, based around the way the new Bayview Station has been dropped across the north-south rail line.)
(There is also a short segment of rail line that curves sharply east off the edge of the image and runs near the riverfront until ending abruptly at what is now Zibi.)
And here’s a wider view of the line running from Bayview Station across the Prince of Wales bridge to Station Taché-UQO.
There is an interesting transit planning question as STO Rapibus already parallels the disused rail line for most of its length, prompting one to wonder whether they shouldn’t just convert to rail transit along most of the Rapibus corridor once trains cross the river again.
Connection to Rideau Station
The proposed route also has the Gatineau LRT connecting across Alexandra Bridge to Rideau Station. This is quite a surprising proposal, as the entire area is currently designed for car traffic, with a pedestrian and cyclist side pathway on the Alexandra Bridge. It is true that historically both heavy rail and streetcars ran across the Alexandra Bridge, but that infrastructure was all torn up decades ago.
It is kind of unfortunate that both at Prince of Wales and Alexandra Bridge we’re ending up trying to recreate rail systems that used to exist, although at least for Prince of Wales the infrastructure is just disused, not totally removed.
I was unable to find a map for the historical Gatineau streetcar (Hull Electric Railway) but there are photos available.
Above is Hull Electric Railway (HER) car No. 50 in a clear view of HER cars both inbound and outbound on the tracks to and from Alexandra Bridge, from TrainWeb Hull Electric Company.
Above is a view looking south of a Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa, image CSTM/MAT04642 from Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.
The above postcard with colour applied almost certainly originating from this image below posted on Lost Ottawa February 19, 2013.
It’s also interesting that they’re proposing to go to Aylmer, because there used to be an Aylmer Station. (Image from 1914.)
Back to the Future
In fact if you put the proposed Gatineau (orange) and Ottawa (red) commuter rail map up against the rail that existed in a map from the Greber Plan (all the black lines on the second map below), it’s pretty striking that with the tracks curving along either side of the river we’re trying to recreate some of what already existed. (You can literally still see the ghost of the old rail line to Aylmer in the curve of what is now a vehicle road by the river.)
Above from Greber Plan: Plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa – Hull and Environs 1948 as made available on the Town and Crown website, 1950 Plan for the National Capital: General Report (Greber Plan) – List of Plates Contained in the Atlas.
Think how much easier it would be to get around Ottawa-Hull if the rail network and Gare d’Aylmer, Gare de Hull-Ouest, Gare de Hull, Gare Ironside, Gare de Chelsea, Gare Talon, Gare de Gatineau, Ottawa Union Station, Ottawa West Station, Westboro Station and Graham Bay Station still existed.
On the plus side, at least we’re starting to restore the ability to get around with modern commuter rail infrastructure.
These are very early days, so rely on the City of Gatineau for official word on the specific rail line routes and stations for west-end rail.
A reminder that the focus is now on the Portage Bridge. See blog post proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end including rail across Portage Bridge for more information.