This page presents news and other items of interest concerning the Zürich tram system and connected topics.
This is not the official information page of any organisation. All opinions expressed here are my own or belong to those to whom they are attributed. Whereas care is taken to ensure the correctness of news, no claim is made to total accuracy.
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Folloeing an extenmsive debate over the future of Waldenburgerbahn (the 750mm gauge railway between Liestal and Waldenburg near Basel) in which all options spanning from closure to standard gauge conversion were considered, the parliament of Canon Baselland have on Thursday (17th) approved the conversion to meter gauge, with work commencing in 2023.
The future of the heritage steam operation on this line is in doubt.
We knew it was going to happen sooner or later, but now the doom of Germany's night trains (including those starting from Switzerland) is sealed. In all likelihood, from the end of 2016, night trains will be discontinued, apparently to be replaced by trains with seating only. So in the face of rising competition from motorway coaches, rather than playing lie down beds as the one trump that coach operators cannot beat, they are attempting to emulate the mediocrity. The final decison will be anounced on 16th December
Apparently it was the only all electrically driven solution presented at the event. A pity nobody could arrange to send a trolleybus! But let's hope at least that TOSA can generate some increased interest in electric traction.
TOSA article in ABB Review.
An ex-VBZ Hochlenker or Giraff bus, converted to a mobile home, features on the SRG website. The article erroneously calls it a former Swissair airport bus. These buses mostly saw dervice on VBZ's route 62 between Schwamendingen and Oerlikon.
According to bahnhofplatz.net, the vehicle in question is ex VBZ 244.
More information on the type can be read on this site. Although this page is possibly out of date, it would appear several examples survive although only 239 is in historic condition. The bus was acquired and restored privately before being sold back to VBZ. After some years as an operational heritage bus it was disposed of under VBZ's austerity regime and is now apparently at the FBW museum in Wetzikon.
The past weekend's vote delivered a massive thumbs up for Limmattalbahn (or more strictly, approval of the cantonal funding for it). 64.5% of cantonal voters said yes to the project. This is slightly down on the 66% that approved Tram Hardbrücke in 2014 and the 66.6% for Glattalbahn in 2003.
The bitter edge to this success is that the communities most directly affected where not as enthusiastic. The local breakdown of the vote shows 57% said no in Schlieren and 64% in Dietikon. This has parallels to the Tram Schwamendingen vote of the 1980s which was also passed against local opposition.
Construction is slated to commence in 2017.
According to reports on bahnhofplatz.net, the era of GTZ trolleybuses has finally come to a close with the remaining buses now being out of service.
The ABB/Mercedes GTZ type has served Zürich from 1986 to 2015, spanning almost 30 years with 79 units being delivered in total. The final three units, 106, 122 and 142, were of the final batch, delivered in 1994. The arrival of new diesel buses will lead to an unfortunate increased use of diesel operation under wires, permitting a more lean management of spare vehicles. The approching timetable switch will also see the short route 71 converted to diesel as it is extended beyond the wires. However, one contributor of the above forum suggests one unit may be retained as a spare for a short while yet.
With delivery of ex-Luzern trolleybuses to Valparaíso complete, many of the Swiss articulated trolleybuses are surplus and likely to be scrapped. These include the ex-Zürich GTr 51 105 and 503 built 1959 and 1963 (ex VBZ 105 and 129, of which more here). The ex-Schaffhausen 203 has however been overhauled and returned to service. The news item on Trolleymotion does not comment on progress around the attempt to repatriate ex-Geneva 617.
A bit off topic for this newslog maybe, but seeing I've been reporting on Stadler and also touching on Spanish interest, it is of interest to see Stadler taking over Vossloh's Valencia locomotive and rolling stock plant, whose products include trams. British readers of this newslog will associate the plant with class 68 locomotives.
Stadler is paying 48 million Euros for the plant in addition to taking over 124 million of debt. The plant has an order book of more than 700 million. It has booked taking of 182 million to date this year and employs 900 people. Prior to Vossloh taking over the the plant, it was owned by Alstom between 1989 and 2005, and before that was the Spanish manufacturer Macosa, founded in 1947 but tracing its origins to 1879. Manufacturing was transferred from Valencia City to their present site at Albuixech in 1997.
The picture above shows one of the tram trains built by Vossloh for Alicante in 2006 to a design of Alstom heritage.
Use of Mercedes/ABB GTZ trolleybuses has lately been restricted to routes 34 and 46. The arrival of new diesel buses will permit them to be retired before the end of the year.
VBZ's latest advertising posters are nods to current events: Volkswagen's emissions testing scandal and alcohol atr the Oktoverfest. In the case of the former, it is good to see that VBZ's oldest tram type is still photogenic and presentable enough to tale it up with Volkswagen's latest products. Enjoy :)
The news is a bit old maybe, but following on from the extension of Basel's tram system across the border to Germany (Weil), BVB second cross-border project is making progress. Route 3 will see a 3.1 km extension to St Louis.
The Swiss portion of the line will cost 32.78 million CHF, of which it is expected that federal support will finance 10.5 million. The French portion of the line will cost 56.4 million of which Swiss (federal) support will account for 19.7 million with the rest being financed by a mix of French local département and national funds.
The canton of Aargau approved its 178 million CHF share of the funds of Limmattalbahn in May. Limmattalbahn is the tram/light rail project that will extend from the western fringe of Zürich along the Limmat valley into the neighbouring canton of Aargau. Construction should begin in 2017 with the first phase (to Schlieren) opening in 2019. The Zürich side also approved their share of 510 million, but this is being challenged in a referendum on 22nd November. No such challenge has been raised on the Aargau side.
Just in case you wanted to see what is going to happen to Hard depot, here is an impression of the project. Trams will continue to use the ground floor with the upper storeys being used for 221 appartments. The present listed structure can be seen on the left. The rest of the plot is presently open air stabling. The project will cost 148 million CHF of which 59 for the tram depot. The project will be subject to a referendum in 2018 for a 2020 completion.
VBZ's restaurant tram 1802 (originally an articulated protype dating to 1960) has been out of service for some time now. According to sources on bahnhofplatz.net, the car is presently stored in Oerlikon depot together with open-topped trailer 1971 (a converted standard tram trailer).
Plans to overhaul the pair are unlikely to be followed up on due to the high costs. Sadly, Tram Museum Zürich has also declined to express interest (although even as a statitc restaurant, this would be quite an attraction at the museum). It is feared this trams will be scrapped.
In a recent news item, I claimed that BDWM's mixed gauge was now history. However, a visit to the line last week, riding on a dining special using heritage car "Sebni" (pictures here), showed the track was still intact (as far as I could see). According to a driver, the reason for the recent closure was the installation of the new signaling. Full track replacement is not scheduled until next year.
As from today, train operation is suspended between Bremgarten West and Wohlen. The line will re-open as meter gauge only on 27th July.
Some days ago, I gave airspace to the issue of "Freedom of Panorama". It would appear that the threat has been laid aside.
The following text is from the change.orf petition page.
So sometimes petitions do work. Of course I wish them success with their further goals.
It would appear the ex-Winterthur GTZ trolleybuses being offered for sale by the dealership H.D. Sturm are still being advertised by them — five years on. From what I've heard, the asking price is quite high. One wonders whether it really makes economic sense to store the buses this long, with the period of storage raising the potential cost of bringing them back to life.
According to bahnhofplatz.net, GTZ trolleybus 131 (reported as withdrawn earlier this year) has been temporarily reinstated. This would take the number of active GTZs back to four (106, 122, 131 and 142).
According to the same source and concerning VBZ's plans to remove sections of trolleybus overhead line, it seems likely that after the rebuilding of Albisriederplatz that the lines will not be reinstated. The layout at Bucheggplatz is also likely to be simplified. Citing VBZ's staff magaine Takt 3/15, the criteria for battery operation of trolleybuses are (1) maximum of one to two stops without overhead lines and (2) location of end points must be on level and overhead line centred over trolleybus.
On the same forum, one reader complains that the air condition is not used on the test battery section (Albisriederplatz - Hardplatz), not a popular decision in view of the present heat wave.
Let us hope that the removal of overhead will not just turn into a cost savings exercise for existing routes but can enable new routes to be electrified at lower cost and so bring trolleybuses to places that will not otherwise see them.
The picture above (taken at Kunsthaus) has no direct link to this topic, but I included it both to show how urban trees can provide shade during the intense summer heat, and how the trolleybus overhead blends to almost invisibility under them.
The following text is from the SwissRail Yahoogroup.
I have uploaded a series of new photos, featuring last weekend's BDWM events as well as other items.
Further to yesterday's report on the upcoming events to mark the end of mixed gauge on BDWM, I have learnt that due to a boiler problem, the DVZO locomotive will not be able to take part. It will be been substituted by Eb3/5 5810 of Verein Dampfbahn Bern. 5810 is a meaningful choice as its appearance would be a recreation of its run to Bremgarten West in 1954 (when the railway dealt with heavy visitor numbers and special trains on account of a national athletics event). However, the runs to and from Bauma will not take place. As a consolation, the last run from Bremgarten west on Sunday (and hence the very last official run on standard gauge on this line) will be extended to Aarau (the train will be piloted by veteran electric Be4/4 15 on the SBB section for signalling reasons).
The timings of the other guest loco, SBB Historic's Bm 4/4 II 18451 diesel electric of 1939 are as follows:
The shuttles will run as follows:
Those who have read a bit about the history of trams and narrow gauge railways in the broader Zürich area may know that the Zürich tram network once linked to a web of interconnecting interurban trams reaching as far afield as Wetzikon to the southeast and Wohlen to the southwest, the latter line crossing the cantonal border into Aargau. Despite much of this network being eroded away between the 1930s to the 1950s, rising commuter flows turned around the fortunes of the remaining sections, notably the Forchbahn and more appropriately for the present news item, the Bremgarten Dietikon Bahn (BD, now BDWM).
To provide a brief potted history of the latter, the BD first opened in 1902 as a tramway starting at Dietikon (where it connected to SBB as well as to the - since vanished - Limmattal Strassenbahn (LSB) linking it to Zürich). From there, the line crossed the Mutschellen (the line features a series of picturesque hairpin bends) before finally reaching the little town of Bremgarten, whose old town is perched on a rocky outcrop in a bend of the river Reuss. The BD was, and still is, the essence of narrow gauge at its best. Efficient and not overbuilt and very much still a backbone of the communities it serves.
Bremgarten, however, was already served by another railway. A standard gauge branch line from Wohlen ended at what is now Bremgarten West (on the "wrong" side of the Reuss).
In 1910 SBB agreed to transfer the line to BD, who built the now iconic bridge over the Reuss connecting the two stations. The ex-SBB line to Wohlen was electrified and converted to mixed gauge, opening in its new guise in 1912. The mixed gauge permitted standard gauge freight to continue to access Bremgarten West (and was also used by the occasional passenger special).
With planners around the world today considering trams as a valuable tool to revitalise local railway links while extending their reach from peripheral stations into city centres, it is mostly overlooked that BD had already done this before probably even their grandfathers were born.
Despite Switzerland being able to maintain much more local freight by rail than other countries for many years, wagonload freight has taken a serious downturn in the last decades and many sidings across the country now lie idle. No freight train has run to Bremgarten since 2009 (although sporadic standard gauge specials for enthusiasts have found their way). With track renewals due, the decison has been taken to relay the line as meter gauge only.
BDWM are marking the end of standard gauge operation on Friday to Sunday 26-28 June. Special trains will be run from Bauma with steam locomotive Eb 3/5 No. 9 of DVZO (there on Friday and back on Sunday) and from Olten with the Bm 4/4 II diesel of SBB Historic (both ways on Saturday). Both locomotives will provide shuttle trains between Bremgarten West and Wohlen on the 27th and the steam locomotive furthermore on 28th. More information from BDWM here.
The actual track work will take place from 13 to 26 July, during which period a replacement bus service will operate between Bremgarten West and Wohlen.
This newslog has in the past reported on the plight of disappearing night trains. Obviously I haven't been the only one to get annoyed about this, and the sustainable transport association, Umverkehr, has asked the federal council to answer some unpleasant questions.
According to the federal council, if our Mrs Doris Leuthard (yes, that one) travels to Hamburg by train, she causes about 33 kg of CO2. If she flies (which is far more likely), the figure is 450 Kg. So that means fulfilling the goals of the Kyoto protocol would support the logic of supporting trains? No, on the contrary say our leaders. Emissions from airliners are not included in the Kyoto objectives, whereas those from power plants are, so by killing that train, 33kg of "Kyoto CO2" are actually being saved per passenger.
You couldn't make it up.
Following a succesful trial on Cobra 3027, an increasing number of Cobras are now running with a third headlight mounted behind the windscreen. This LED light should improve the visibility of the trams and reduce accidents.
Cobra 3080 (one of the units thus equipped) has been repainted from VBZ blue to VBG white. VBG Cobras are now 3062-3080.
It is sometimes speculated on pro-public transport blogs that the world is approaching or maybe even at peak-car (analgously to peak oil, the point at which fewer new owners are chosing to own a car than old owners giving them up). For Zürich this is now confirmed. For every 1000 inhabitants, there were 359 cars in 2013, down from 457 in 2007. VBZ ridership has risen from 293 million in 2005 to 326 million in 2014.
bahnhofplatz.net (citing NZZ)
Following my recent complaint about Swiss International Air Lines that I posted here and also on some social media sites, I have received a profuse apology over the handling of the case and an offer of compensation that is somewhat more generous than what I had been expecting. I don't know if this is due to my loud complaints or whether it would have happened anyway, but let credit be given where credit is due.
Or the tale of an airline that won't compensate passengers who don't travel on Uber.
Maybe it is that time of year that some of you, dear readers, are considering plans for your Summer holidays. Maybe you are flying to Switzerland to ride the trams and trains or take in the mounatinn air. Maybe you have another destination in mind. If you are planning to fly you may have to chose your airline. Here is a little warning about the customer service of Swiss.
In December 2014 my flight from London to Zurich was cancelled at very short notice. I wished to fly on this late flight as it was my sister's birthday and this would maximise my time there and permit me to attend the party which was in the evening. As she lives in West London, I flew into Heathrow for precisely this reason, although I could have saved a lot of money and flown Easyjet into Gatwick (better food and less snobbery). But my plans were disrupted at short notice when I was informed by text message that my flight had been cancelled and that I had been rebooked onto a ridiculuosly earlier flight. And not only was the departure significantly earlier but it was from City airport. I had to leave immediately, missing out on the party and the whole purpose of my flight and all the money I had spent on it was entirely moot.
There was barely time to cross London and if I did arrive just in time for the flight this was through pure luck as I never had to wait long for an Underground or DLR despite having to make several connections. Under less favourable conditions I could easily have missed the flight. Swiss would have had to put me up in a hotel, causing costs for them.
When back home, I cautiously approached Swiss hoping for some sort of compensation, even if just symbolic. Swiss said this was not possible as it was not their fault the flight had been cancelled. It had been cancelled due to bad weather. This was an utter fabrication because, as I have mentioned, I had actually been near Heathrow on that day, and had seen plenty of planes land and take off. To cap it all it was a beautiful sunny day. Does Swiss consider the Winter sun as an adverse weather condition? Maybe had Swiss fabricated some lies about leaves on the runway or the pilot having measles I might I have swallowed the excuse. But such is the problem of having service personnel who don't read what you tell them and so miss the trick. So I complained again.
This time they said they would explain something to me. So listen carefully (they said): As it is often foggy at Heathrow in this season, the airport cancels flights and this is beyond their control. I wrote back asking whether maybe they had not just cancelled the flight due to insufficient passengers, which is neither the fault of the weather nor the airport. They retorted in a most unfriendly mail that the conversation was now ended and that if I had costs getting to the airport I should provide receipts and they would refund those and only those.
I had obviously been hoping for a more generous compensation, but remembering what is said about gift horses I though I might take this up. I explained that I had travelled with an Oyster card and that it is thus not possible to produce a paper receipt from my home in Zürich. They then replied that I should have travelled on Uber.
Swiss is a cynical and evil airline who refuse to live upn to their responsibilities and don't beliuve in honesty. I don't normally like to use this newslog to settle personal vendettas, but I feel they have overstepped the mark. Please boycott them.
--- please also read my update to this here ---
Opponents of Limmattalbahn have colected 6,600 signatures, meaning the project must be aproved in a cantonal referednum. It is highly unlikely, however, that a majority will reject the project.
Yesterday's offer by ZVV offering free use of public transport was taken up by a million passengers, with the lake ships proving especially popular.
Construction of Tram Hardbrücke has finally commenced.
ZVV, the transport executive responsible for public transport and the integrated fare and planning structure within the canton of Zürich is celbrating ist 25th anniversary this year. Among others, various vehicles have been repainted in anniversary liveries. To mark the anniversary, all (2nd class) ZVV fares will be free on Sunday 31st June.
Trollemotion reports that the active GTZ fleet is now down to three units (106, 122 and 142). Last year there were still seven. 113 and 129 were withdrawn in May and December 2014 respectively, with 137 and 131 following earlier this year (fleetlist here).
Trials of battery operation are in progress between Albisriederplatz and Hardplatz. If trials prove succesful, the compex junctions at Albisriederplatz and Bucheggplatz could be permanently replaced by battery operation. On the other hand, route 71 will be converted to diesel or hybrid bus at the end of the year on account of its extension and connection and mrging with diesel route 95.
Changes in the proposed routing of route 2 in Altstetten mean trolleybus 31 will continue serving this location and be turned at Hermetschloo. From December 2017, route 34 will be extended to Hauptbahnhof.
The latest round of night train discontinuations has led to some international mumblings and complaints, even if this is still far from an organized movement of protest. For Switzerland, the pro-public-transport organization, Umverkehr, has presented a petition to SBB and demanded commital to the continuation of existing services and the reinstatement of the lost ones. So far SBB's reaction has been that the night trains are the responsibility of foreign railways and that it wasn't their responsibility. But let us not give up hope before everything has been tried. Maybe SBB will yet find a way of leaning on its partner railways.
Meanwhile in Spain, another night train with much tradition has been discontinued. On 6th April the last Estrella Costa Brava ran between Madrid and Barcelona. This train was always well patronized, frequently being sold out - and this despite the train not being the subject of any publicitity drive. But RENFE announced that it was being discontinued nevertheless. The passengers can just as well take the high speed train, whose earliest arrival in Barcelona is similar to that of the Estrella. This may be attracxtive for those living nxt door to Madrid Chamartin station, but for those using this train as part of a longer trip, that is one more impediment to train travel. Despite the massive spending spree of past years, Spain's high speed trains are chalking up a huge operating deficit, apparently.
Disagreement around the routing of Limmattalbahn through Dietikon appears to have been laid aside. Many locals objected to the tram being routed via the station. The proposed alternative along the main road would have sacrificed the opportunity of an interchange. However, following the discussions, plans have been modified somewhat and two of the buildings adjoining Dietikon station are to be demolished to create more room for an interchange.
The proposed tram line to Affoltern has taken a step forwards. Following evaluation of both variants (direct route from Bucheggplatz, or longer route from Oerlikon) it has been decided to adopt the direct routing via Bucheggplatz (replacing the present trolleybus route 32 along Wehntalerstrasse). The tram could be operational around 2023. The Oerlikon route could follow by 2018 as part of a tangential route connecting Affoltern to Stettbach via Oerlkion.
The first of the new Stadler units for NStCM has been delivered.
Trogenerbahn is to increase its order (placed last year) for Stadler Tango units to 12 units (from seven). The older Stadler units 31-35 will then be sold to Neuchâtel. It had previously been suggested they might come to Forchbahn (whose Stadler units are 2 section versions of the same design, the Trogenerbahn units have three sections and cabs at both ends). The units they are replacing in Neuchâtel are of course also similar to a Forchbahn type.
Reactions to the recently published statements concerning the problems with the new tram order have been heated. Heinz Vögeli, personnel manager of VBZ, has said these revelations are being circulated to discredit VBZ and their choice of Bombardier. It is also revealed in Tages Anzeiger that Mr. Weis and Molinari Rail are in fact connected, or at least were in the past. Their joint opinion should thus not be judged as independent. Fingers point at Siemens being behind the accusations. Siemens has criticised Bombardier for not permitting its offer to be re-evaluated by Molinari, and demanded the company be excluded from the bidding for its intransigence. Bombardier on the other hand, supposedly fears Molinari may be biassed against it, having worked with both Siemens and Stadler on recent projects. Alas, the politics of big money and big business.
Various media sources have again picked up the problems around Zürich's as yet still undecided tram order. Apparently the manufacturer that is ahead in VBZ's preference is Bombardier, but the canton is not accepting this choice. Martin Weis, a consultant is quoted as accusing VBZ of haveing biassed the process from the beginning. The office advising the canton, Molinari Rail, goes even further and says none of the offers received strictly fulfill the terms of the tender.
The companies participating in the tender are Bombardier, Siemens, CAF and Stadler Rail, and their offers are worth 280 to 350 million CHF for the 70 trams. Each company has invested between 300,000 and 500,000 Euros in the tendering process and may possibly be seeking compensation.
My latest photo update is on the dock crane that spent 2014 on Limmatquai as part of an art project.
This website has many times pointed to the plight of our vanishing night trains. Apparently others are also unhappy, with Blick am Abend of 20th January making it the cover story.
All 2014 news items have been tranfered to www.proaktiva.ch/tra,/zurich/newslog/2014.html
Just to summarise some of the highlights:
A decison is still pending on the new tram acquisition. New tram are to be ordered to replace the earlier Tram 2000 units, but differences between VBZ and ZVV have blocked the decision, with the process almost descending into farce. The earliest Tram 2000s will be 39 years old this year.
In terms of extensions to the tram network, things are looking up. The Tram Hardbrücke project was approved in a referendum (this will see route 8 extended from its present Hardplatz terminus by way of new tracks using the existing Hardbrücke road viaduct to Schiffbau and then onward using existing tracks to Werdhölzli). The other project that is making progress is Limmattalbahn, a tram corridor that will extend beyond the city's western border through the Limmat valley and crossing into the neighbouring canton of Aargau, terminating at Killwangen Bahnhof. Although the project has broad support in principle, there has been opposition to details of the route in both Schlieren (where a longer subway was demanded) and Dietikon (where an alternative routing was called for). It appears that in both cases concerns could be assuaged. As for the tram's entry into Zürich Altstetten, planners have revised their earlier proposals. The plan to reroute tram number 2 away from Badenerstrasse had met with considerable local opposition.
The trolleybus fleet has seen the Mercedes / ABB O405 GTZ fleet dwindle from 10 to 5 units. Rumours that these would be gone by the end of the year proved unfounded, although they are clearly living on borrowed time. These units wil be 21 years old this year, with the type being 29 years old. 2014 also saw the entry into service of two additional Hess Lightram3s (nos 90 and 91), ordered as an option to an earlier batch. Contrary to what I reported, route 71 did not cease to be a trolleybus in December, but this will happen in December this year. However, there seems to be hope that electrification of routes 69 and 80 may go ahead soon.
Probably the biggest public transport event of the year was the opening of the Durchmesserlinie cross-city heavy rail tunnel on 14th June.