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Riders question LRT reliability after freezing rain disrupts service – again


Transit riders scrambled to make their way around Kitchener-Waterloo on Wednesday evening, after freezing rain brought the LRT to a standstill.

The three-hours-long service disruption affected all ION trains between Fairview and Conestoga Station.

Shuttle buses were deployed to help travellers get around the region, but some called it an inconvenience.

“You’re not able to do the things that you would otherwise like to do,” said rider Jatheesh Srikantharajah. “You can’t go grocery shopping if the trains aren’t running.”

Wednesday’s situation wasn’t unique.

Since the ION launched in 2019 at a cost of $868 million, service has been shut down at least three times due to freezing rain. The latest incident was in Feb. 2023 when an ice storm hit the region. ION trains didn't run for more than a day.

“[In] other cities, you don’t have this problem,” said Srikantharajah. “In Toronto you can use the streetcar and that runs in the winter.”

Some riders are now questioning light rail transit's reliability over the winter months.

Karen Redman, the Chair for the Region of Waterloo, is standing by the ION.

“LRTs are complicated,” she said. “We’re working with the manufacturer to find ways that we can combat ice forming on the lines so that there are fewer interruptions.”

Grand River Transit shared a similar sentiment. “GRT is working with Keolis to make adjustments to the freezing rain plan for future weather events,” they said in a statement to CTV News.

Meanwhile, GRT ridership in Waterloo Region continues to surpass expectations. The transit operator said there was a 44 per cent increase in Sept. 2023 compared to the year before.

“I’m very proud of our track record,” said Redman. “I would put [it] up against any other community’s LRT that lives with the kind of conditions where you have changeable weather like we do in the Region of Waterloo.”

Many riders said they’re happy with the LRT service, but worry what might happen if we get more wicked weather this winter. Top Stories

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