Ottawa Line 1 LRT route comparisons

These are rough map route comparisons, at 10km scale from Google Maps, of Ottawa’s core transit Line 1 running the Citadis Spirit, with other jurisdictions that run the only comparable train, the Citadis Dualis.

Basically you can see the other cities are doing edge routes (suburban commuter routes).  Nantes and Lyon are basically running commuter trains to smaller communities.  Both of the Paris trams are outside the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road that defines the traditional core of Paris.

As Ottawa’s Stage 2 is not running yet, don’t use the Ottawa transit times end-to-end as a comparison with other cities.  All of the map route in blue is currently run by buses.

Ottawa – Line 1 Stage 1 (in red) and Stage 2 (roughly, in blue)

Ottawa Line 1 LRT Stage 1 and approximate Stage 2

Tram-train de Nantes à Châteaubriant (in blue) – 1h 7min station to station

Tram-train de Nantes à Châteaubriant

Tram-train de Nantes à Clisson (in blue) – 29 min station to station

Tram-train de Nantes à Clisson

Tram-train de l’Ouest lyonnais (in blue) – 25 min station to station

Tram-train de l'Ouest lyonnais

Ligne 4 du tramway d’Île-de-France – Bondy to Arboretum (in yellow) – 29 min station to station

Ligne 4 du tramway d'Île-de-France

Ligne 11 Express du tramway d’Île-de-France (in black) – 14 min station to station

Ligne 11 Express du tramway d'Île-de-France
For more information, see previous blog posts Ottawa Line 1 LRT train passenger number comparisons and Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit tram-train.

Ottawa Line 1 LRT train passenger number comparisons

Ottawa’s Citadis Spirit is not being used the same way as comparable vehicles.  Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT, at the core of our transit network, is supposed to carry over a hundred thousand passengers per day, millions of passengers per month, tens of millions per year.

For direct comparisons, there are none, as no other city yet uses the Spirit.

Ottawa Citizen – October 20, 2019 – ‘A significant milestone’: LRT network hits 3 million rides

Ottawa’s Confederation LRT line has surpassed three million individual rides after just over one month in service, according the city’s general manager of transportation.

Ottawa’s Line 1 Citadis Spirit train is based on the Citadis Dualis tram-train, which is used in only three cities: Nantes, Lyon and Paris.  The Dualis is used as a lower tier lower-volume commuter transit system, not as a primary transit system.  What do I mean by this?

Almost every use of the Dualis carries fewer passengers per year than Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT was intended to carry per month.

Nantes-Châteaubriant (723,700 passengers in 2018) and Nantes-Clisson (664,851 passengers in 2016) both carry fewer passengers per year than Ottawa’s Line 1 is supposed to carry in a month.

Lyon-Brignais passenger numbers were hard to find, but according to Wikipedia the train carries about 8000 passengers per day.  This means that it also carries fewer passengers per year than Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT is supposed to carry in a month.

Both of the Paris trams are outside the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road that defines the traditional core of Paris.

Paris tram T4 (which uses a mix of Siemens S70 Avanto vehicles and Citadis Dualis vehicles) carried 8 million passengers in 2018, with a drop to 3 million passengers in 2019.  Paris tram T11 Express had 5 million in 2018 and 6 million in 2019.  So you can do the math – at best the T4 and T11 Express each carry in a year what Ottawa carries in roughly two months.

If you want to see maps of how the different routes compare, see my next blog post Ottawa Line 1 LRT route comparisons.

Switching back to the Citadis Spirit, and looking at projected use, even Toronto’s Finch West LRT is only supposed to move 46,000 passengers per weekday, less than half the volume of Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT.

See my previous blog post Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit tram-train for a lot more comparison information.

Data Sources

Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit tram-train

to create the Spirit, [Alstom] had adapted the Citadis Dualis vehicle, then in service in Nantes and Lyons. He said changes had been made to the propulsion system in order to accommodate different braking and acceleration “parameters.” Crucially, the vehicle’s systems had been “winterized” to accommodate temperatures as low as -40 C. … “This is not a huge redesign” – Ottawa Citizen – March 2020 – Inside the slow-rolling disaster of Ottawa’s $9-billion LRT project – above information based on a 2013 International Railway Journal article

So Ottawa has the Citadis Spirit vehicle, which is based on the Citadis Dualis tram-train.

Proposed Actions

So what can we do now?  I suggest the following, and given the issues with secrecy and lack of information related to current project, I would encourage that all information sharing and any decisions made should be public, open and transparent.

  1. We should partner with all cities that currently use or are planning to use the Citadis Spirit or the Citadis Dualis.  These are the most closely related train models.  This may sound daunting but it’s pretty simple since the total number of cities is three for the Spirit (Ottawa, Toronto and possibly Cali) and three for the Dualis (Nantes, Lyon and Paris), for a total of six.  We should use this partnership to pool expertise about maintaining and running the Spirit and Dualis (keeping in mind we are using these trains in different ways, with different passenger volumes).  This should include conversations in all cities not just with maintenance employees and managers, but with train drivers and passengers.
  2. We should partner with Gatineau (who are planning to get a tram) to see if it is possible to test train models other than the Citadis Spirit on Ottawa’s tracks.  In particular it would be very interesting to see if a Citadis 405 tram, or some sort of winterized version of the 405, is more reliable than the Spirit.
  3. Could we eventually run a mix of Spirit and 405 trams on Ottawa’s tracks when we get to Stage 3?  Would it introduce more maintenance and operations problems to have two different kinds of trains?  (Keeping in mind we’re already going to be running two different kinds of diesel trains on Line 2, the Trillium Line.)

I know this post arrives in an environment where people are already stressed by Ottawa transit and the many ways in which so many parts of the transit system are having problems, from switches to in-station arrival displays and many more.  There are many complex factors involved with Ottawa’s Line 1 issues; there isn’t any one single cause of the problems.

I recognize that it will be easy to characterize this post as “Ottawa bought a lemon”, which is not the intent.

We’ve bought 34+38 = 72 Citadis Spirit tram-trains, and our stations are all designed for low-floor vehicles.  We can’t switch now to high-floor metro cars.  (For some discussion of low-floor vs. high floor vehicles see a previous blog post.)  And we can’t replace 72 trains with new vehicles.

If you want to skip ahead to the problems reported with the Dualis, the section is
History of Technical Issues, however almost all of the articles are in French.


The Citadis Spirit (used only in Ottawa to date) is based on the Citadis Dualis tram-train.  There are only approximately 100 Citadis Dualis trains, used in three cities in France (Nantes, Lyon and Paris). There are news reports (in French) of the Citadis Dualis having problems in all three cities.

The initial use of the Dualis was for rural/suburban commuter rail.  Nantes and Lyon rural/suburban lines using the Dualis carry fewer passengers per day than Ottawa carries per hour at rush hour.1

In Paris, the Dualis is used in the T4 tram line (along with the Siemens S70 Avanto tram) and the T11 Express tram line. Both lines are unusual in that they are run by the national rail company, SNCF, rather than the Paris transit organisation, RATP.  They are also the lowest passenger volume Paris tram lines, sometimes by a wide margin (e.g. in 2018 the T1 line carried over eight times the passengers of the T4, and over ten times the passengers of the T11 Express).

Both of the Paris trams are outside the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road that defines the traditional core of Paris.

The T4 and the T11 Express lines also carry dramatically fewer passengers than Ottawa’s LRT Line 1 was projected to carry; the T4 carried as many passengers in all of 2019 as Ottawa’s Line 1 carried in a month and an entire year of T11 Express passengers in 2019 would only be two months of Ottawa Line 1 passenger volume.

Also, the T11 Express is the second worst tram line for reliability.  (The T4 line is the worst, but the data are from before the Spirit was added to the line in September 2019.)2

There is at present no other use of either the Dualis or the Spirit anywhere in the world.

Wikipedia reports 24 Dualis trains for Nantes, 24 for Lyon, 15 for the T4 and 15 for the T11 Express.

Two additional tram-train lines using the Citadis Dualis are planned for Paris:

In terms of the Citadis Spirit, the next city will be Toronto, with trains on the Finch West line (estimated to be ready in 2023) and trains on the Hurontario line (estimated to be ready in 2024).3

The only other potential customer that I am aware of is Cali, a city of over two million people in Columbia, which is planning for Citadis Spirits for two suburban commuter lines, starting in 2025.4

So basically, we should partner with Nantes, Lyon, Paris, Toronto and Cali.

And I mean seriously partner, with a coordination office and a kickoff public conference hosted by Ottawa.


The Citadis Dualis is a tram-train (hence the “dual” moniker) announced by Alstom in 2007.

its tram build enabling it to run through the city, while its performance as a train allows it to transport passengers at 100km/h once on the outskirts of town
– Alstom – 25 April 2007 – Alstom to deliver 31 trainsets of its new Citadis Dualis model to SNCF / Alstom va livrer à la SNCF 31 rames de son nouveau Citadis Dualis

If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, a tram / streetcar / trolley is a surface rail system that runs in the shared street space of a city.  In the US and Canada they’re often sharing the street with cars.  Toronto still has streetcars.  Ottawa’s last streetcar ran in 1959.  Trams, like buses, typically have stops at the edge of the sidewalk.  A tram-train is a tram that can switch from being a surface rail tram in a city centre, to running on a suburban “main” railway line (including the ability to switch between lower voltage overhead lines to higher voltage lines).  The Citadis Dualis is a tram-train, although it appears it is mostly used as either a tram or a train, but not usually switching from one to the other on a route.

When the very first Dualis vehicle was presented in Nantes in 2010, SNCF described the tram-train (PDF, Internet Archive) as follows:

Avec le Tram – Train, la SNCF propose une solution de mobilité nouvelle pour répondre à un besoin croissant des Collectivités de développer les transports en commun du centre vers la périphérie. A la fois tramway et train, il pénètre au cœur des villes à la manière d’un tramway et circule sur le réseau ferré régional.

The Citadis Spirit is basically a winterized, North American version of the Dualis.  The Spirit was announced in 2013.  Ottawa uses it solely as a train: LRT Line 1 is completely grade-separated (it is always separated from car traffic; it never intersects with any streets, always going either over or under them).

Alstoms Citadis-Dualis tram-train with a configuration similar to that of Ottawa has been operating for nearly two years in the Nantes suburbs and more recently in the city of Lyon at a speed of up to 100 km/h.
– Alstom – 13 February 2013 – Alstom to provide 34 light rail vehicles and maintenance services for Ottawa

With a similar configuration to Citadis Dualis tram-trains used in the French cities of Nantes and Lyon, the version of the Citadis Spirit for Ottawa will be a 100% low-floor LRV with a top speed of 100 km/h and space for bicycles. It will be equipped to operate in ‘extreme’ winter conditions.
– Railway Gazette – 14 February 2013 – Alstom launches North American light rail vehicle with Ottawa contract (presumably based on Alstom PR)

La configuration du Citadis Spirit est similaire à celle du Citadis-Dualis qui circule depuis près de deux ans dans la Région pays de Loire à Nantes et plus récemment dans la Région Rhône Alpes à Lyon
– Alstom – 15 mars 2013 – Spirit, le tram-train choisi par la ville d’Ottawa au Canada

the Confederation Line will be more like a light metro with underground stations in the city centre, 100-second headways and CBTC train control. Citadis Spirit is based on Alstom’s Dualis tram-train but will be adapted to meet North American requirements such as load levelling for step-free boarding at stations, and changes to the propulsion system to adhere to braking and acceleration parameters.

It will also be winterised to cope with temperatures as low as -40°C. “This is not a huge redesign” – International Railway Journal – 25 September 2013 – Canada and USA are poles apart on transit funding

In Europe, more than 200 Alstom tram-trains (Citadis Dualis and Regio Citadis) have already been sold and have travelled more than 50 million kilometres. This Alstom technology is also being exported with the Citadis Spirit, adapted to the North American market and adopted by the cities of Ottawa and Toronto in Canada in 2013 and 2017.
– Alstom – 14 December 2019 – Alstom’s Citadis Dualis tram-trains begin commercial service on the Tram 4 extension between Clichy and Montfermeil

It’s important to understand the Citadis tram product line is not the same as the Citadis tram-train product line.  The Dualis and Spirit tram-trains are very much a niche within Alstom’s much larger (20 times larger) tram business.  The Dualis has only been deployed in 3 cities.  The Spirit in one.

So it’s very misleading when news reports jumble the much larger tram business together with the niche tram-train business.

So the question to ask is not “How reliable is the Citadis?”.  The question to ask is “How reliable is the Citadis Dualis?” as that’s the closest to Ottawa’s Spirit.  And the answer, available pretty much exclusively in French, is that there are news reports of reliability issues.

If you want to skip ahead to the problems reported with the Dualis, the section is
History of Technical Issues, however almost all of the articles are in French.

Why did we choose Light Rail instead of a Metro?

You can read Ottawa 2009 Rail System Selection to get the details of why Ottawa City Council chose a low-floor LRT rather than a high-floor metro.  The summary is that they thought we would have a very mixed system, with a high-passenger-volume grade-separated core and a low-passenger-volume at-grade surface rail extended network running through the Greenbelt into the suburbs.  They wanted to use the same technology throughout, so they choose low-floor light rail.

Here’s some info from a question in the FAQ on the original Ottawa Light Rail website.

Q: What is the difference between LRT and Light Metro?

A: The principle difference between LRT and Light Metro is that Light Metro requires a fully segregated system, while LRT can function on both segregated track and track run on roadways shared with other vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This added flexibility to LRT is well suited to Ottawa’s need for a system that can accommodate both high volume in the core and significantly lower volume further out.

from Ottawa Light Rail » FAQ » What is the difference between LRT and Light Metro? (Internet Archive, May 12, 2011)

Why did we choose the Citadis Spirit?

The short answer is I don’t know.  You’d have to ask the people who wrote the specifications and procured it.  You’d also have to look at exactly what other vehicle options were available at the time of procurement.

I could speculate that they wanted the high speed (100km/h) to cross the Greenbelt, and that the distances that the LRT will traverse made it look like an urban-suburban tram-train model.  They may not have known early enough that LRT Line 1 would be completely grade-separated.  And there may have been some thought they we might actually use it as an actual surface rail tram eventually e.g. on Carling.  They also may not have understood how high the transit passenger peak demand was during Ottawa’s weekday rush hours (before the era where many people were required to work from home).

One would hope they understood the Citadis Spirit was a new niche model of a train that was based on an already niche model (Dualis) in very limited use in France.  And that they realised the Dualis only started service in 2011.  And that they knew the Dualis was being used as a low volume suburban commuter train, not an urban core transit system.  One would hope.

Choosing the Spirit should have been flagged as a high risk given that the Spirit would be deployed in a fully-operating, high volume existing transit system, not as a brand new low volume transit system that would slowly grow.

In any case, there is zero chance of revisiting low-floor trams versus high-floor metro now.  To change to high-floor metro we’d have to rebuild literally every single station.

In theory we could use a different model of low-floor vehicle though, if it is compatible with all the other technology we’re using, including the signalling and control systems.

Why do we use two Citadis Spirit trains stuck together?

The two trains together (which is train terminology is called a consist) have become our standard vehicle.  You’d have to ask OC Transpo for the full answer, but my understanding is the plan was that they would run single trains during low volume periods such as weekends, but the overhead (and associated component failure risk) of coupling and decoupling the trains wasn’t worth it.

A second question would be, now that we’ve decided to have double trains, why don’t we just buy (or create) one long train?  And the answer as far as I know is basically that Alstom doesn’t make or support a model of the Spirit that is that long.  We use two 48m trains with 300 passenger capacity coupled together, making a single 96m train (a consist) with 600 passenger capacity.  The longest Spirit configuration Alstom has described online is a 50m train with 370 passenger capacity.

It is unfortunate that the coupled design we’re using to get the desired capacity means that a big chunk in the middle of our consist is two complete unused train cabs.

UPDATE 2020-08-02: A good question is whether any of the cities using the Dualis run it coupled.  I haven’t researched it, but it seems from Google Images that some do.  It looks like Nantes-Clisson and maybe the Tram T11 Express both use coupled trains.  END UPDATE

Passenger Volumes and Usage

Nantes and Lyon Passengers

The initial deployment of the Dualis was as a commuter train, with much lower passenger volumes than in Ottawa.  The Dualis was used for what the French call small lines – “petites lignes“; low-passenger-volume lines running from a city to a small town or village (these types of lines have been pretty much closed in Canada for decades).

  • Nantes
    • Nantes – Châteaubriant: 8 trips per day (in 2020); 3,650 passengers per day (in 2015); 721,000 passengers per year (in 2017) – duration 1 hour 7 minutes for 64 km
    • Nantes – Clisson: 19 trips per day (in 2016); 458,175 passengers per year (in 2015?) – this line runs a mix of direct express trains and tram-trains – Monday through Thursday 19 tram-train trips, and Friday 23 tram-train trips
  • Lyon (Tram-train de l’Ouest lyonnais, Lyon – Brignais) ~8000 per day (« le trafic est d’environ 8 000 voyageurs par jour en 2017 », according to Wikipedia)

It’s hard to get a lot of detail about the actual Lyon line usage.  If you want 152 pages of a Master’s thesis on the background of the Lyon line though, you can read:

Éric Fauconnet. Mise en œuvre de l’offre de service tram-train de l’Ouest Lyonnais. Enjeux pour la SNCF et défis organisationnels. Gestion et management. 2012. (PDF) HAL Id: dumas-01896797 (landing page)

Note: Nantes – Châteaubriant daily trips from Tram-train Châteaubriant-Nantes and verified against TER train booking schedule online – Horaires & Trafic – Nantes (Toutes gares) à Châteaubriant Tram Train.  Clisson tram-train (“TT”) trips were from Horaires Ligne T2 Nantes – Vertou – Clisson (PDF link no longer available).

Nantes’ population is 309,346.  Châteaubriant’s population is 11,974.  Clisson’s population is 7,187.

So basically Ottawa has a niche train that is currently unique in the world, based on a niche train (approximately 100 vehicles) used in three cities in France.

What do I mean by much lower passenger volumes?  Nantes and Lyon trains carry fewer passengers per year than Ottawa Line 1 LRT is intended to carry in a month.

For more detail on passenger numbers, see next blog post Ottawa Line 1 LRT train passenger number comparisons, and for more detail on how the maps of the routes compare, see Ottawa Line 1 LRT route comparisons.

In retrospect, we might have been better with a winterized Citadis X05 tram, e.g. a Citadis 405, rather than a tram-train.  Presumably the Spirit was chosen in part because it can go 100km/h versus the 80km/h max of the 405.  But the 405 is a much more mature technology.  (That being said, I don’t know if a winterized 405 exists, but presumably the 405 could be modified in the same way that the Dualis was modified.  What we would lose in the theoretical reduction in max speed we might gain back in reliability.)

(If someone has a detailed technical comparison of the Dualis versus the Spirit, and the Spirit versus the 405, I would be happy to add more information to this post.)

Is a tram-train a tram?

Alstom has TWO product lines in this area, very clearly separated.  Here’s their own categorization from their Rolling Stock Solutions:

This is two different kinds of vehicles under one brand umbrella, which makes it confusing to distinguish between them.  But notice how they are described separately.  They have different histories, with different numbers of trains deployed.  The purpose of the tram-train is to go faster than the tram, to serve suburban commute distances, while also being able continue on into cities that have existing tram lines in their cores.

Here’s what Alstom says about the Citadis Dualis tram-train:

Designed to bridge city center and its suburb, Citadis Dualis is able to penetrate the city core as a tram and travel along regional railway tracks, thanks to special features involving power, safety and comfort.
– Alstom PR – 7 December 2012 – Alstoms Citadis Dualis tram-train now in service on Western Lyons second line

So let’s compare the two offerings.

Citadis trams

  • Current generation: 5th generation (X05 series, e.g. Citadis 405)
  • First launched: 1999 AD?
  • Type of vehicle: tram (travels on urban streets, sometimes with fully or partially dedicated lanes)
  • Maximum speed (5th generation): 80km/h
  • Number of trains: over 2000 in service
  • Number of cities: over 50

Citadis tram-trains

  • Current generation: effectively the first generation (Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit)
  • First launched: first train shown in Nantes in December 2010?
  • Type of vehicle: tram-train (suburban train in Nantes and Lyon, tram in Paris)
  • Maximum speed: 100km/h
  • Number of trains ordered: ~100
  • Number of cities: 3 (Dualis), 1 (Spirit)
  • Future cities: +2 (Spirit in Toronto and possibly Columbia)


  • tram has been around a decade longer than tram-train
  • tram has ~20 times the number of vehicles compared to tram-train
  • tram has ~10 times the number of cities compared to tram-train

Report after report, including from both Ottawa and Toronto, characterizes the Spirit as part of the larger Citadis family.  But without a component-by-component technical comparison, there’s no way to know if this is meaningfully true.  Given that there are many more trams deployed than tram-trains, with many fewer reports of problems for trams that I’m aware of, it seems like they are not comparable technologies.

Here is how the Spirit gets framed as part of the larger deployment of Citadis trams, even though it is not a tram:


Used in 40 cities around the world, the Alstom Citadis currently moves more than 2 million travellers per day. / Chaque jour, ce véhicule transporte plus de deux millions de passagers dans 40 villes dans le monde. – Ottawa Confederation Line – Vehicle (Internet Archive) / Ligne de la Confédération – Véhicules (Internet Archive)


Over 2,300 Citadis vehicles sold to 55 cities around the world, the Alstom LRV can handle the toughest winter and hottest summer. / Avec plus de 2300 véhicules Citadis vendus dans 55 villes dans le monde, le VLR d’Alstom résiste aux hivers les plus rudes et aux étés les plus chauds. – Metrolinx – Citadis Spirit Light Rail Vehicle / Metrolinx – Le véhicule léger sur rail Alstom Citidis Spirit 

I’m not going to claim every government website and news report has space to go into technical detail about how our vehicle compares to others, but nevertheless, instead of the broad statements from Ottawa and Toronto above I would go with something more like “the Citadis Spirit, based on a deployment of approximately 100 Citadis Dualis trains used in three cities in France”.

This business of “used in more than 50 cities around the world” – it’s not just a nuance.  Those 50 cities are using Citadis trams.  It makes it sound like we must be an outlier if everyone else can run these vehicles.  How do those over 50 cities manage?  They manage because they’re using different vehicles with a much longer history of development, operations and maintenance.  Citadis series trams are not Dualis or Spirit tram-trains.

More than 2,300 Citadis range cars sold to 50 cities, including Barcelona, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Dubai and Ottawa. – Toronto Star – How do Toronto’s light rail vehicles compare? It’s Bombardier versus Alstom

This just seems a mismatched comparison to me.  To make an inexact analogy, if you’re writing about Brand X sedan cars, do you talk about the fact that a million Brand X trucks have been sold?  Just because they have the same brand name in front of them doesn’t make them the same vehicle.


Citadis Spirit (Ottawa LRT Line 1)
OC Transpo O Train LRV 1107
Youngjin / CC BY-SA

Citadis Dualis (Paris Tramway T4)
Citadis Dualis Arboretum Tramway T4 2019 02
Idris2000 / CC BY-SA
You can be sure it’s a tram-train because if you look very closely, it says TT 407 on the back.  All the SNCF tram-trains have TT numbers.

History of Technical Issues


Nantes – Châteaubriant

Including many issues caused by frost (givre) on the overhead catenary power line.  SNCF came up with a catenary heater in 2019 to address frost problems, but apparently they didn’t install them on enough of the line, as they’re still having the problem in 2020.

NOTE: The Nantes-Châteaubriant catenary is at 750 volts. Ottawa’s is at 1500V.  At higher voltages frost on the catenary is less likely.


« Le temps perdu ne se rattrape pas »
la ligne a, l’automne et l’hiver 2014, été polluée par des problèmes techniques, informatiques et organisationnels à répétion et des supressions de trains par paquets.
– ouest france – 25 novembre 2015 – Tram-train Nantes – Châteaubriant : la fréquentation en hausse


Ras-le-bol des retards et dysfonctionnements dans la circulation des tram-trains sur la ligne Nantes-Châteaubriant : le vice-président du Conseil Régional Roch Brancour se fâche contre la SNCF et suspend un versement de huit millions d’euros. Ce vendredi, le gel a de nouveau provoqué des retards.
– Info France Bleu – 1 décembre 2017 – Problèmes sur le tram-train Nantes-Châteaubriant : la Région tape la SNCF au portefeuille

Par ailleurs, le courant utilisé sur la ligne est d’une tension similaire à celle employée en zones urbaines, soit du 750 volts. « Avec des lignes sous cette tension, le givre peut se former, ce qui n’est pas le cas avec du 25 000 volts, généralement utilisé sur des réseaux situés en rase campagne », notait Dominique Gehl, responsable du pôle ingénierie Bretagne – Pays de la Loire de la SNCF, à l’occasion de l’interruption du 1er décembre.
– ouest france – 5 décembre 2017 – Pourquoi, avec le givre, le tram-train entre Nantes et Châteaubriant reste à quai


Comme l’an dernier à la même époque, la ligne de tram-train Nantes-Châteaubriant ne peut circuler ce mercredi matin en raison du givre. Une fine couche de glace s’est déposée sur les caténaires qui fournissent en électricité les trains. Et cela suffit à paralyser le trafic. Du produit anti-gel a été appliqué, sans succès. La circulation n’a repris que vers midi, à la faveur du redoux.
– 20 minutes – 21 novembre 2018 – Nantes-Châteaubriant: Le tram-train bloqué par le givre ce mercredi, les habitués en ont marre

Le scénario du 1er décembre 2017 se répète. Le givre a raison de la circulation des trams-trains entre Nantes et Châteaubriant. « Aucune circulation n’est possible à cause du givre qui s’est déposé sur les caténaires », indique les services de la SNCF.
– ouest france – 21 novembre 2018 – Le givre bloque le tram-train entre Nantes et Châteaubriant


Le recours à un tram-train plutôt qu’à un classique TER avait également été salué comme une innovation pleine de promesses. Cinq ans plus tard, le bilan n’a pourtant rien de fantastique. Certes, la ligne de 64 km a permis à bon nombre d’habitants d’abandonner la voiture pour aller travailler à Nantes. Elle a aussi favorisé le développement urbain de plusieurs communes au nord de la Loire-Atlantique (Nort-sur-Erdre, Sucé, Abbaretz, Issé…). Mais les motifs de déception ne manquent pas.

Pannes trop fréquentes
La fiabilité du tram-train est, elle aussi, pointée du doigt. Retards « fréquents », « absence de trains » pour cause de panne, « gel des caténaires le matin » sont des critiques régulièrement citées par les usagers.

Confort insuffisant pour les longs trajets

Le confort du tram-train est également sujet aux critiques. Aux heures de pointe, certaines rames sont bondées, en raison des problèmes de disponibilité des trains citées précédemment.
– 20 minutes – 4 mars 2019 – Nantes-Châteaubriant: Pourquoi la ligne de tram-train déçoit

un tram-train qui circulait vers le nord du département est tombé en panne …

L’origine de la panne serait liée à un « dysfonctionnement électrique ».
– ouest france – 26 octobre 2019 – Tram-train en panne : 176 passagers doivent regagner la gare en marchant sur les voies


la liaison tram-train entre Nantes et Châteaubriant est momentanément interrompue sur une partie de son tracé.

En cause, la météo de ce lundi matin qui sans être extrême a tout de même provoqué une panne d’alimentation par la présence de givre sur une caténaire, du côté de Doulon.
– france 3 – 6 janvier 2020 – SNCF : la ligne Nantes-Châteaubriant perturbée par le givre

Nantes – Clisson


Un incident technique sérieux sur le TramTrain de l’Ouest Lyonnais le 3 décembre a conduit la SNCF a retirer l’ensemble de ses rames pour une expertise, depuis le service est particulièrement perturbé entre Nantes et Clisson où circulent des matériels identiques
– franceinfo 3 pays de la loire – 6 décembre 2013 – Nantes Clisson : TramTrain, toutes les rames rentrent au garage

Pourquoi sont-ils arrêtés ?
Un incident est survenu mardi 3 décembre, vers 21 h 30, en Rhône-Alpes, sur une rame Citadis-Dualis identique à celles qui roulent entre Nantes et Clisson. Une roue s’est bloquée. Le train, qui quittait une gare, a dû être stoppé et ses quinze passagers évacués : il n’y a pas eu de blessé. La circulation de tous les Citadis-Dualis a été interrompue, le temps de trouver l’origine de la panne et de la solutionner.

« Il n’est pas acceptable qu’un matériel neuf connaisse de telles avaries. L’urgence est aux solutions, mais, ensuite, toutes les responsabilités devront être établies », écrit le président de la Région
– ouest france – 12 décembre 2013 – Nantes-Clisson : le tram-train durablement à l’arrêt ?



Après l’incident survenu sur le réseau de l’Ouest Lyonnais (rupture d’essieu et blocage de roue), la SNCF a décidé de suspendre jusqu’à nouvel avis l’exploitation de l’intégralité des trams-trains Dualis d’Alstom.
transportrail canalblog – 14 décembre 2013 – Dualis : c’est plus grave que prévu


La société doit d’ici là faire changer sur le matériel une pièce maîtresse du système de roulement, apparue défectueuse lors des différentes expertises menées après l’incident survenu vers l’Arbresle. «Les rames seront remises en circulation au fur et à mesure que cette pièce aura été changée», indique-t-on chez Alstom, sans détailler le calendrier de reprise.
– 20 minutes – 13 janvier 2014 – Le tram-train reste à quai

Depuis le 05 décembre dernier, les trams-trains de l’ouest lyonnais sont à l’arrêt. En cause : le déraillement d’une rame et le constat d’un défaut technique sur une pièce maîtresse.

Le choix de la SNCF et l’investissement de la Région sur ce matériel innovant font polémique. Pour les syndicats de cheminots, le matériel est inadapté.
– franceinfo 3 – 9 janvier 2014 – Tram-train de l’ouest lyonnais à l’arrêt : une reprise progressive est annoncée

[Suite à un incident technique sur l'Ouest Lyonnais un plan de transport est adapté]© France 3 RA

A 2018 article in Mobilités Magazine summarizes some of the issues and fixes:

  • Changement de boîtes d’essieux
  • blocage intempestif des portes
  • Changement de pantographes

Le nombre de pannes a fini par provoquer une réunion de crise à la Région des Pays de la Loire le 13 avril dernier.

Les équipes du service après-vente d’Alstom et de la SNCF ont, aux dires de la Région des Pays de la Loire, jusqu’à la fin de l’année pour « réduire de la moitié » les incidents sur les trams-trains de la région. Dans le concret, passer de 120 à 60 pannes donnant lieu à un retard de plus de 5 minutes par million de kilomètres (définition du taux d’incidents). Ce qui permettrait à la SNCF de respecter enfin son plan de transport de 35 aller-retours par jour vers Châteaubriant et 23 vers Clisson en rames doubles.

– 25 avril 2018 – Les déboires du tram-train d’Alstom (Internet Archive):


T11 Express


A cause d’une « avarie de matériel », la toute nouvelle ligne reliant Epinay au Bourget (Seine-Saint-Denis) ne fonctionnera pas jusqu’à lundi.
Le Parisien – 1 septembre 2017 – Le couac : le Tram 11 Express à l’arrêt tout le week-end

Une élue de Seine-Saint-Denis a écrit à la SNCF et à Ile-de-France Mobilités pour s’inquiéter des dysfonctionnements fréquents de la toute nouvelle ligne de tram-train reliant Epinay-sur-Seine au Bourget.

« Je m’inquiète des pannes récurrentes sur la ligne, et de la qualité dégradée du service rendu aux usagers », indique l’élue du canton d’Epinay-Pierrefitte-Villetaneuse, trois communes traversées par la nouvelle ligne. Nadège Abomangoli exprime aussi « de fortes inquiétudes concernant la sécurité des voyageurs ».
Le Parisien – 8 septembre 2017 – Des inquiétudes sur le nouveau T11 Express

Studies and Reports

In 2014, as part of the planning for the T12 Express line (Tram-Train Massy-Évry) in Paris, a report was produced: Le projet de Tram-Train de Massy Evry : enjeux et problématiques du point de vue des représentants du personnel (PDF)

Of note is section III.2.1. Dualis : des problèmes de fiabilité and all sections under III.2 (slides 25 through 29).  Unfortunately the text is all trapped in the PDF format.  Here is my hand transcription of part of slide 25, which may have errors.  Note the phrase “We propose here to revisit the assessments collected from the train conductors [not sure if this is conductors or drivers], which evoke the multiple recurrent malfunctions that are mainly linked to the trains [the equipment].” (my translation)

Les rames tram-train Dualis circulaient déjà dans l’Ouest Lyonnais et sur le réseau TER de Nantes pour la liaison Nantes – Clisson ; elles viennent d’être déployées sur la liaison Nantes-Châteaubriant.

Nous proposons ici de revenir sur les appréciations recueillies par les conducteurs de ces rames qui évoquent de multiples dysfonctionnements récurrents et principalement liés au matériel :

    • des problèmes d’accouplement en UM et de liaison électronique ou informatique en cabine,
    • des avaries lors des changements de bout,
    • des avaries liées à la présence d’humidité en cabine,
    • des dysfonctionnements liés aux portes, [yes, this translates as “malfunctions related to the doors” or simply “door malfunctions”]
    • et plus généralement, des pannes furtives, difficiles à catégoriser et tracer, comme nous l’ont expliqué plusiers agents de conduite : « parfois on n’a même pas le temps de retranscrire les défauts dans le carnet de bord, ils disparaissent et puis après ça revient. C’est déprimant » ; « On nous dit souvent d’attendre avant d’appliquer les procédures, les défauts partent d’eux-mêmes ».


Annex 1. Reference Documents

As you can see above, Alstom provides not just the trains, but is subcontracted to provide 30 years of maintenance for them.

SIDEBAR: The Regio-Citadis tram-train pre-dates the Dualis, and is a hybrid (diesel or electric) train, unlike the Dualis and Spirit which are electric only.  END SIDEBAR

Annex 2. Toronto Citadis Spirit

Toronto/Metrolinx likes to use the terminology Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) sometimes.

I can’t tell how many vehicles have been ordered for the Finch West LRT.  I’ve seen 19, 18, and 17.  The FAQ says 18, which means they would have three backups as they’re planning to run 15 vehicles in regular service.  Also, bizarrely, they never say “Spirit” in their documentation.  Always Alstom train/LRV/LRT.

I’m also not clear on the total Metrolinx order.  Up to 46?  61?  62?  Alstom said 61 in 2017.

Alstom – 12 May 2017 – Alstom receives order for 61 Citadis Spirit light rail vehicles for Greater Toronto and Hamilton area / Alstom remporte une commande de 61 véhicules légers sur rail Citadis Spirit pour la région du Grand Toronto et de Hamilton

Alstom will supply Metrolinx a 48-metre Citadis Spirit, which has a passenger capacity of 321.

Metrolinx – Finch West LRT and Finch West LRT Project FAQs (PDF)

  • Expected Completion: 2023
  • trains that will run on a dedicated track (a dedicated lane in the centre of the roadway, separate from regular traffic)
  • will run every 5-7 minutes during peak hours
  • (estimated) 46,000 passengers per weekday
    • estimated that the Finch West LRV will carry approximately 2250 passengers per direction per hour during the peak period by 2031; the capacity of the Finch West LRT is up to 6,300 passengers per hour per direction
  • A total of 15 Light Rail Vehicles (LRV) will be operating during both morning and afternoon peak hours, with 5 minutes in between trains (also known as “5- minute headway”). During off-peak hours, there will be 8 to 10 trains in operation with 7 to 10 minutes between trains.
  • 18 Alstom vehicles will be used for the Finch West LRT
  • The Alstom LRT vehicle is 48 metres in length. The vehicles can carry up to 336 passengers (120 seats + a capacity of 216 people standing).

Metrolinx – Hurontario LRT

  • Expected Completion: fall 2024
  • 292 passengers (according to their Twitter)
  • will run every 7.5 minutes during peak hours (according to their Twitter)

You can see a rendering of the train with Hurontario livery in a 2017 tweet.

In general I found it difficult to find much detail at all about the Hurontario vehicles.  They really need an FAQ.  Seems like it will probably have 44 vehicles available?  Seems like it will operate at-grade but with some kind of partial separation?

If you’re really ambitious you can try reading the 1838 page Hurontario LRT Project Agreement (PDF).

Metrolinx – The Alstom Citadis Spirit Light Rail Vehicle

  • Alstom will build vehicles for the Finch West LRT and Hurontario LRT projects.

Metrolinx – August 2, 2019 – Sophisticated mock-up of a light rail transit vehicle [Citadis Spirit] becomes Ontario festival star

Toronto Star – October 12, 2019 – Metrolinx not concerned about Ottawa LRT issues, despite having order in for the same vehicles by Ben Spurr

Annex 3. Cali Citadis Spirit

Santiago de Cali, Columbia is proposing a commuter train (Tren de Cercanías) service that would use the Citadis Spirit.  Timeline appears to be 2025.

Gobernación del Valle del Cauca – Santiago de Cali, December 12, 2019 – Gobernadora entregará estudios de prefactibilidad avanzada para el tren de cercanías siga su curso / [Request for] advanced prefeasibility studies for the commuter train (modified Google translation)

The above page is the most detailed, with substantial info on the choice of the Citadis Spirit, including the diagram which also shows up at the end of this section in a tweet.

They propose a Citadis Spirit train, which corresponds to one of the systems that can be adapted.

These are the different trains and it was defined at this stage that the most appropriate to the characteristics of the system is the 42-meter long one with 3 wagons, bidirectional so it has a driver’s cabin at both ends, and they will be used according to the direction of the route. (Google Translate)

[Image 3. Length and capacity (at 4 people per square metre) of Alstom Dualis / Citadis Spirit (approximate translation)]

El País – December 12, 2019 – Primer tramo del tren de cercanías en el Valle estaría listo en el 2025 / First section of the commuter train in the Valley would be ready in 2025 (Google Translate)

El País – December 13, 2019 – Los otros datos de los estudios del tren de cercanías que tendría el Valle / The other data from the studies of the Valley commuter train (modified Google translation)

El Pais - Cali - train - infogram - map - large
Infogram map from above article.

Systra presented a pre-feasibility study on May 19, 2020.

City Hall of Santiago de Cali – Entregan proyecto de prefactibilidad del Tren de Cercanías / Suburban train prefeasibility project delivered (Google Translate)

City Hall of Santiago de Cali – Los estudios de prefactibilidad del Sistema Férreo del Sur del Valle avanzan: la tecnología sugerida es un Tren-Tranvía / Prefeasibility studies of the South Valley Rail System advance: the suggested technology is a Train-Tram [tram-train] (Google Translate)

Gobernación del Valle del Cauca – El Tren de Cercanías del Valle superó la fase de prefactibilidad / The Valley Commuter Train passed the prefeasibility phase (Google Translate)

El País – May 19, 2020 – Obras del tren de cercanías en el Valle iniciarían en el primer semestre de 2023 / Works on the commuter train in the Valley would begin in the first half of 2023 (Google Translate)

It should be remembered that the proposal will have two independent rail lines, but that will connect to a central station located on Carrera 7 with Calle 25, in the center of Cali.

While the first line begins in Yumbo, crosses the Valle del Cauca capital and ends in Jamundí with a length of 38.2 kilometers, over which there will be 31 stations, the second line covers the section from the Cali power station to Palmira with a length of 30.5 kilometers on which 16 stations would be located. In addition, there would be two branches that would detach towards the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport and the center of Cali. In other words, the commuter train would have a total of 74.2 kilometers of railroad. (Google Translate)

The Twitter account Cali Projects @ProyectosCali says

In the pre-feasibility studies, a Citadis Spirit train is proposed, this train has 3 variables and for Cali, a 42-meter, 3-car train with a capacity of 346 passengers is being designed with the possibility of linking trains to increase their capacity to almost 700. (Google Translate)

I would note that the above image considers the Dualis and the Spirit basically interchangeably.

There’s also a video in a tweet from February 2020. I can’t embed the video but you can click the “video tweet” link below.

Annex 4. Paris tram reliability

This is about the end of my Spirit rabbit hole, looking at spreadsheets of Paris tram usage and reliability.

You can find the necessary data at Observatoire de la mobilité en Île-de-France (OMNIL) – Chiffres détaillés > Transports en commun en chiffres > Trafic annuel et journalier and Chiffres détaillés > Transports en commun en chiffres > Qualité de service.  Note: none of the quality of service PDF links on the OMNIL website work, use the directory link below instead.  The last PDF files are from June and July of 2019.

It’s basically open data for Paris transit.

All you need to do is pull the graph from the Quality of Service spreadsheet to see that Tram T11 Express (which is entirely Citadis Dualis) is the second worst.  Tram T4 is the worst, but the data are from before the Spirit was added to the line in September 2019.

Paris - OMNIL - Attente sur le réseau tramways - 2019

In terms of passenger volume, basically the takeaway is that the T4 and the T11 Express are the lowest volume lines, in general by a fairly wide margin.

T4 had 8 million passengers in 2018, with a drop to 3 million passengers in 2019, T11 Express had 5 million in 2018 and 6 million in 2019.  This compares with the highest-volume tram line, the T3a with 68 million passengers in 2019.  It’s hard to do exact comparisons because the T11 Express just started in mid-2017, and I don’t know why the T4’s traffic is dramatically lower in 2019.  (From the annual traffic Excel spreadsheet, tab 3 “Voyages annuels Tram et Bus”.)

For comparison, Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT would have been expected to have over 2 million passengers per month outside of vacation periods, or in other words, considerably higher passenger volumes than either of the Paris trams.  It had already hit 3 million passengers a month after its launch date.

All the train-related emojis

Since these emoji are tiny on most devices, and since most people just type “train” and select something, and since many people are not too bothered about which one to use, they tend to get jumbled up.  But anyway, here is what they’re supposed to be used for:


🚈 Light Rail

  • Light Rail is the correct emoji for the Ottawa Line 1 LRT
  • U+1F688

🚂 Locomotive (steam train)

  • With the Wakefield steam train gone, the Canada Science & Technology Museum is the best place to see these, e.g. the Steam exhibition
  • U+1F682

🚆 generic train

  • This is the closest emoji for Ottawa’s Line 2 diesel trains
  • U+1F686

🚄 High-Speed Train

  • Does not apply to any train in Canada
  • U+1F684

🚅 Bullet Train

  • Does not apply to any train in Canada
  • Typically used for Shinkansen trains, but applies to any train with a “streamlined bullet nose”
  • U+1F685

🚝 Monorail

  • U+1F69D

🚇 Metro (subway)

  • U+1F687

🚞 Mountain Railway

  • U+1F69E

🚊 Tram

  • The difference between light rail and a tram is that a tram runs at street level in a city, often with stops beside the sidewalk.  May run in mixed traffic.  The original form of rail mass transit in cities.  In North America often called a streetcar or a trolley.
  • U+1F68A

🚟 Suspension Railway

  • It’s kind of odd that there is an emoji for this as suspension railways are very rare.  The handful of suspension railways includes Wuppertal in Germany & Shonan and Chiba in Japan.
  • U+1F69F

Rail Cars

🚃 Railway Car

  • It’s not really clear what kind of railway car this is.
  • The train emojis are not really designed to be assembled together.  Some face left, some face forward, and you can’t flip the direction.  So you can make a train going left like this 🚂🚃🚃🚃
    but you can’t really make a generic train with cars 🚆🚃🚃
    or a light rail train with engines on both ends 🚈🚃🚃🚈
    plus there’s no consistency between different designs for this emoji on whether the railway car has a pantograph (overhead connection to electrical wires) or not.
  • U+1F683

🚋 Tram Car

  • The tram emojis are not designed to be assembled together.  A tram ends up looking like 🚊🚋🚋.
  • It’s definitely an electric tram, with a pantograph (overhead connection to electrical wires).
  • U+1F68B

Train Stations

🚉 (Train) Station

  • It’s really more train platform than train station
  • U+1F689

Ⓜ️ Circled M

  • Commonly indicates a 🚇 Metro stop
  • U+24C2


🛤️ Railway Track

  • These are all pretty much terrible at a small size.  Microsoft’s looks more like a mountain than railway tracks (and appears to show the railway heading directly for the mountain).
  • They aren’t designed to be lined up, so they look weird side-by-side: 🛤️🛤️🛤️
  • U+1F6E4

Ottawa O-Train Specific

While it might seem like the red O emoji ⭕ is ideal for the O-Train, there are two issues:

  1. It’s actually called Heavy Large Circle, so for people using screen readers, it would probably sound like “Heavy Large Circle Train”, not “O-Train”.
  2. It has a specific meaning in a Japanese context: “an alternative to a [checkmark] in Japan for a something that is correct”.

September 10, 2019 Ottawa LRT Stage 1 Line 1 in Emojis
April 12, 2015 iOS Travel emoji – railway vs tram

iOS Travel emoji – railway vs tram

Apple iOS 8.3 adds many new emoji (these symbols are standardized by the Unicode Consortium, not by Apple).  It also has a new, much larger display (emoji keyboard) with clearer groupings.  But not quite clear enough.

Perhaps it’s because Apple has a giant suburban US campus, but some of their transportation emoji are difficult to distinguish (there is a whole separate issue, which is that you only get the tiny icon, instead of being able to tap-and-hold to get a much larger more detailed icon with a text explanation).

Here are most (but not all) of the selections

Travel Emoji - IMG_2152 - 12152

As you can see, two of the entries in the far-left column look almost identifical.  They are actually railway car and tram car.  Here they are at double size, with explanation and Twitter icons (apologies for my clumsy graphics editing skills).

Travel Emoji - railway tram Twitter - IMG_2152 - 12152

You can see good info, with the representations used in multiple different operating systems, at EmojiBase:

In short, if you want to tweet or text a RAILWAY CAR use the TOP icon.
If you want to tweet or text a TRAM CAR use the BOTTOM icon.

(In fairness to Apple, the Android emoji are much worse, rendering the railway car like a bus.)

Sparks Street at the turn of the 20th century

Thanks to a tweet from @ottawacity, a question from @bikelanes_ca and a response from @pastottawa, a photo of Sparks Street and a painting (a postcard?) of the photo (except with a car added).



The date is not clear.  The Past Ottawa link says view from Russell House, 1902.  So presumably the photo would have been from before that.  It’s definitely before 1928 because the Russell House hotel was demolished then.  It’s the corner of Sparks and Elgin, looking west. Before 1928 Sparks continued east from Elgin (the Federal government expropriated the land and replaced it with the wider split Elgin and Confederation Square).

It would be nice to get more info from the City of Ottawa Archives but they don’t appear to have an online catalogue or online images.