Prince of Wales Bridge (Canada)

The Prince of Wales Bridge (French: Pont Prince de Galles) is a rail bridge across the Ottawa River joining Ottawa, Ontario to Gatineau, Quebec. It connected with the Canadian Pacific Railway line just west of Lebreton Flats, and crosses the south channel of the river to Lemieux Island; it then continues across the northern channel into Quebec.

Prince of Wales Bridge
Looking west to the Prince of Wales Bridge
Coordinates45°24′56″N 75°43′40″W
CarriesNot in use
CrossesOttawa River, Lemieux Island
LocaleOttawa-Gatineau, National Capital Region, Canada
Official nameEnglish: Prince of Wales Bridge
French: Pont Prince de Galles
OwnerCity of Ottawa
DesignTruss bridge
Rail characteristics
No. of tracks1, but not in use
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Structure gaugeAAR

It is a multi-span Pratt truss bridge, consisting of six equal spans over the south channel, and seven spans over the north channel; the second-last span, proceeding northward, is longer by a factor of about 1.7.


The bridge was built by the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway[1][2] in 1880, named for Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. At that time, it was one of the few crossings of the Ottawa River, and was one of the most valuable assets of the line, which was owned by the Quebec provincial government. The QMO&O continued to lose money, however, and it was purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1882, which connected it with their other recent purchase, the Canada Central Railway. This connection gave the CPR a solid rail route from their westward line being built from North Bay to the ports of the St. Lawrence. The Prince of Wales Bridge was joined by the CPR's Royal Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge in 1901, the second railway bridge to cross the river between Ottawa and Hull.

The Prince of Wales Bridge served well into the 20th century, but as rail transport diminished and more efficient routes became more common, the line was abandoned. The City of Ottawa purchased the CPR line, including the Prince of Wales Bridge, during the early 2000s for the O-Train project; however, the bridge has remained unused and the section of track between the Bayview Station and the bridge is overgrown. As the purchase of the bridge included the approaches on both sides, the City of Ottawa now owns property in Quebec.[3]


In 2005, the bridge was disconnected from the tracks just before its approach on the Ottawa side; this was done for a water line project being built along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway as part of the Lebreton Flats revitalization.

The Prince of Wales Bridge is now at the centre of controversy regarding current access and use by pedestrians. The disused bridge has for years served as a quick link between Gatineau and Ottawa for pedestrians, sunset watchers and dog walkers. These users want the bridge to remain open for their enjoyment.

On the other hand, city officials have been pointing out safety and other concerns related to the bridge for some time. Between January 1, 2005 and August 29, 2016 the Ottawa Police Service has received 51 calls about activities at the bridge, three of which resulted in charges being laid, though no complains related to the structural safety of the bridge itself, rather to possible criminal activity occurring on the property.[4]

With City of Gatineau officials now showing great interest in the Prince of Wales bridge as a transit link between the two cities,[5] modifications would need to be made, as there is only enough room for a single track on the bridge, and the City of Ottawa has now permanently built over this rail infrastructure to create the new Trillium Line station at Bayview[6].

In September 2016 the City of Ottawa spent $46,000 to install new chain-link fences to block entrance to the bridge, although the fence was breached shortly afterwards.[7] In September 2016, a pop-up picnic led by residents was organized in opposition to the proposed barricades. [8] As of the end of the year 2016, the city has no plans to convert the bridge into a pedestrian or cycling path, which it says will cost $10.5 million. Rather, their stated goal is to use the bridge as an interprovincial rail link, connecting OC Transpo’s Trillium Line with Gatineau’s rapid transit network, although there has now been permanent and illegal building over of this rail infrastructure by the City of Ottawa[9]. It was also proposed that this rail link might become part of a proposed commuter rail system[10].

In February 2018, the Canadian Transportation Agency ruled that the city breached its duty as a rail line owner when it dismantled a section of tracks near Prince of Wales Bridge in order to build a new entrance to Bayview Station of the new Light Rail System[11]. The CTA gave the City of Ottawa two options: to either try to sell a portion of the rail line leading to the Prince of Wales Bridge or to restore the tracks so they can accommodate rail traffic within 12 months. In statements, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson asserted that "We don't have the funds to put rail across to Quebec at this point"[12]. While there had been funding put aside for the work several years earlier, it has since been re-directed to a pedestrian bridge over the Rideau Canal [13].

In April, 2019 (a Federal election year), the Federal Cabinet issued an Order In Council rescinding the Canadian Transportation Agency's decision, meaning that the City of Ottawa would no longer need to appeal the order to repair the rail link[14], also rejecting a petition from Moose Consortium Ltd., which wanted to use the bridge as part of a commuter rail project spanning the Ottawa River[15]. The order in council dated April 5 stated that "the agency's decision went against national policy because it would force a railway company to invest in an "unused and non-profitable railway line," or discontinue it permanently"[16], despite the Moose consortium indicating that it actively wanted to invest in this rail infrastructure.

As of June 2019, the City of Gatineau's current design for its planned Société de transport de l'Outaouais LRT system, which would launch in 2028, would see it cross the Prince of Wales Bridge to link to Ottawa's O-Train system at Bayview Station.[17]

See also


  1. "The Railways of Ottawa: Hull - Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental". Colin Churcher's Railway Pages. Archived from the original on 2016-07-18.
  2. "The Railways of Ottawa: Findings of the Circle". Colin Churcher's Railway Pages. Archived from the original on 2008-05-18.
  3. "Property Acquisition - CP Rail Railway Corridor - Ottawa River to Leitrim Road". City of Ottawa Report to Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee and Council, 7 December 2004.
  4. Willing, Jon (6 October 2016). "Ottawa police called to Prince of Wales Bridge 51 times — over 10 years". Postmedia Network Inc. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  7. Willing, Jon (21 September 2016). "Stop damaging the Prince of Wales bridge barriers, councillor pleads". Postmedia Network Inc. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  8. Lofaro, Joe. "Ottawa residents stage pop-up picnic to save Prince of Wales rail bridge". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  10. Moose Consortium
  11. "Future of Prince of Wales Bridge still unclear after regulator's decision". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  12. "Future of Prince of Wales Bridge still unclear after regulator's decision". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  13. "Funding for Prince of Wales Bridge transferred to canal project". Ottawa Citizen. 2015-12-11. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
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