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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The 15.5km base tunnel through Mount Ceneri (in the canton of Ticino) opened on 4th September. This is a transformational link in the Swiss rail network completing the new cross-Alpine link (NEAT), of which the Gotthard Base Tunnel (opened on 1st June 2016) was the largest component.
90 million EUR plans to create an S-Bahn in Liechtenstein with cross-border services to Switzerland and Austria, were rejected by 62.3 percent of voters in a referendum on 30th August.
Inofficial predictions that Flexity would debut on route 11 yesterday did not come to fruition.
As we eagerly await the apperarance of a Flexity tram in passenger service, it is interesting to reminisce that it will not be the first Flexity to carry passengers in Zürich, or even on route 11. That honour goes to Augsburg 882 which spend two weeks on demonstration on route 11 from 7th to 20th June 2010. That this is now more than 10 years ago reflects on the huge delay in the acquisition process.
Sad news from Moscow. What was not too long ago one of Europe's largest trolleybus systems, was closed down on 25th August.
One of the contributors also mentions that according to Vinnitsa staff, they are seeking to acquire VBZ's Tram 2000s when these become available.
The final design of the Stadler trams for Limmattalbahn has been released. The eight trams are being built in Stadler's Valencia works. The new line will open in December 2022.
While on the topic of Limmattalbahn, here is a film published on the website of limmattalerzeitung.ch along the proposed future extension of Limmattalbahn beyond the Killwangen terminus of the phase presently under construction, going on via Wettingen into Baden.
Click on this link and scroll down page.
Found online, this artist's impression of the new residential block to be built at Hard Depot (Escher-Wyss-Platz). On the left is the present building.
Morger Partner Architekten, Basel
I am uploading a small and rather eclectic mix of recent photos on different topics.
The rebuilding of Depot Hard (that is the depot by Escher-Wyss-Platz) will lead to total closure of the depot for trams from January 2021 for the duration of the work. This will lead to a pinch in terms of stabling space (on top of the present vehicle shortage).
The depot is to be totally rebuilt with a residential block to be built above the tracks on the rear part of the site. The landmark art-deco main building with its integrated appartments is being retained, but as far as I can make out the more inconspicuous oldest part of the depot, dating to the Industriequartier Strassenbahn, is being demolished.
A fascinating youtube clip showing shunting on the street running siding to the Swissmill, including the crossing of tram tracks at Escher-Wyss-Platz and an environment not expecting a heavy train. The siding is shunted several times daily on weekdays.
Schaffhausen's trolleybus system has been endangered before. But now it seems that conventional trolleybus operation will soon be a thing of the past. The trolleybus fleet has recveived similar modifications to the Zürich fleet with larger batteries permitting a greater range of autonomous operation. This has permitted sections of the overhead lines to be removed. Furthermore, the city has (following the trial of a demonstrator, and a vote last November) ordered 15 all-battery buses from Irizar. I understand these are not intended as direct replacements for the trolleybuses, but will displace diesel buses on other routes. But it probably also seals the longer term fate of trolleybus operations.
Back to the topic of night trains, ÖBB are to order another 20 night trains, in addition to the 13 already on order from Siemens. These will probably replace present rolling stock.
A recent discussion on bahnforum.ch reminisces on an interesting feature of the old Gotthard railway line.
The Ritom hydro power station is located close to the southern end of the Gotthard tunnel not far from Airolo, and was built in connection with the electrification of the Gotthard railway and completed in 1920. A funicular stretches alongside the pressure pipes upwards from the turbine house in the valley by the village of Piotta, all the way up to lake Ritom (which was originally a natural lake but was enlarged for the purpose of the power station). The height difference for the pipes is 850m with a length of 1,413m. The funicular parallels it over 1,369m for a vertical rise of 785m. Originally built to assist the construction and maintenance of the power station, the funicular now carries mostly passengers. With a maximum incline of 87.5 percent it is claimed by some to be the steepest funicular of Switzerland. The difference between a funicular and a lift may of course be a semantic question.
The 2007 photo above shows the funicular seen from the upper station, with the pressure pipes to its left.
However, more of interest to the present article is the SBB siding that serves the turbine hall. Most power stations of the period were directly served by railway sidings to permit the delivery of equipment by rail, and also its removal for servicing or repair. Even if such sidings were never expected to see much use, they were at the time the only reasonable means of moving large pieces of equipment.
Such a siding would probably not be worthy of a mention were it not for the fact that on the short distance from Ambri-Piotta SBB station to the turbine hall, it manages to cross both an airstrip (although not actually the runway or any taxiway, but it was until recently a strictly military airstrip) and also crosses the Gotthard motorway. Both crossings are at grade. The siding predates both installations. The siding also crosses the river Ticino on a bridge.
The 2007 picture above shows the Ticino river bridge in the foreground with the railway siding entering the great doors of the turbine hall. To the left of the hall the pressure pipes can be seen as can the track of the funicular to their left.
The siding is no longer used and has partly been aspahlted over or dismantled. Nevertheless, it has not yet vanished entirely.
Below are some Google Earth / Google Maps views of the site, showing the tracks still visible in the asphalt of the A2 Gotthard motorway. Clicking on these opens the Google website with the locations from which the screenshots were taken.
On popular demand, the same clip, now with English subtitles.
Rather off-topic, but an amusing sketch with the comedians Giacobbo and Müller in an zoo advert reminiscing on how easy it is to get to Africa - by tram.
It has (regretably) been many years since I last visited Zürich's Zoo, but while googling the topic to find the above clip I came across pictures of an RTL routemaster bus - within the zoo grounds. The bus immedaitely piqued my interest and so I researched it further.
The bus, branded Top Deck Safari, is not operational unfortunately, but has been positioned to provide safari-like views from its open-top upper deck and can also be hired as an event location.
This picture is from an article from the zoo website on the Hyena enclosure.
The bus appears to be little more than a shell, and has a large opening cut in the side. The lower deck appears to be glazed still, but the upper deck has no windows, presumably for better viewability. But overall, the venerable bus appears to be turned out very neatly and still retains that unmistakable London routemaster look and feel, with even the typeface on the blinds seeming authentic. All this points to a rather skilled and high quality rebuild.
A little further searching on the zoo site found a February dated item presenting the (then new) bus, which is part of the novel Lewa Savannah area (for which the previosuly mentioned video clip is an advert). The article also has some background information and an interesting photo of the bus during the rebuild.
Zooming in on the pictures a little reveals that whoever did the rebuild, re-applied the London fleet number, RML 2533, in its correct location on the side of the engine bonnet. Assuming this to be the bus' correct identity, I searched a little further in this direction, and came across the below "before and after" views of the rebuild on the kreis7.blogspot site.
Another find (on baumaschinenbilder.de) reveals an older view of the bus in rather forlorn condition, prior to its rebuild, vandalized and left in an industrial zone in Niederhasli (near Zürich), but interestingly with the same adverts as in the above view. These pictures would suggest that the bus was not brought to Switzerland especially for the zoo but was previosuly intended for some other use which was probably never realized.
A commenter on the site says the bus entered service with LT in 1966 registered JJD 533D. From 1993-1997 it ran for Kentish Bus. It was finally withdrawn by Arriva in 2005 (the year regular Routemaster operation ceased in London).
Due to a brake problem on 1674, the mirage coupled set is presently not working on route 13. On 5th, 6th and 7th August it was substituted by other trams.
The European Commission has approved the Acquisition of Bombardier Transportation by Alstom. Conditions include the divestment of certain Bombardier designs including the Zefiro high-speed train (jointly developed with Hitachi) and the Talent 3 family of multple units. Alstom must diverst the Coradia Polyvalent multiple units. It will be interesting to see who gets to buy these businesses. The Flexity tram appears not to be affected. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2021, so the rest Züich Flexity order will probably be delivered under the Alstom label after that date.
The last few months have seen numerous developments on the night train scene. Although many services were temporarily suspended due to the corona virus, these have mostly resumed and, with growing concerns over the environemtal imapct of flights, there are promising developments - with possibly some semblance of political backing - that new services may be added.
In Spain night train services were suspended in connection with the lockdown. In an article on 26th May, Renfe informed that after the ending of the lockdown, national night train services would not be resumed. This would affect Madrid to A Coruña, Pontevedra and Ferrol, and Barcelona to A Coruña and Vigo. The internation Madrid to Lisboa and Lisbon to Hendaye services were not mentioned specifically and it is assumed these were to be resumed. Following protests, Renfe apparently back-pedalled on this decison and said the services would resume.
In Germany, a private operator is providing a night train from Salzburg to Sylt. The train runs twice a week and only from July to September.
Sweden is introducing a seasonal (wintersport) weekly night train from Stockholm to the Austrian Alps (Zell am See) from 2021. The summer only Berlin to Malmö night train via Sassnitz and train ferry is being discontinued over tightended safety requirements on the ferry. This is to my knowledge the world's last remaining train ferry to carry a sleeper train. Snšlltåget is looking into an all-year Stockholm to Berlin via Denmark night train starting from 2021.
Following the winding down of the Corona shutdown measures, night trains from Switzerland to Prague, Budapest etc have been progressively resumed in late June or early July. SBB (with some pressure from the government) is also saying they are looking at re-establishing lost night train connections including to Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome.
Moving a little further into the realms of fantasy, there have also been calls for airlines to operate night trains,
Waldenburgerbahn (Liestal- Waldenburg) will soon be regauged from 750mm to meter gauge. The present tram 2000 based trains will be replaced by Stadler Tramlinks. The line will be closed for total reconstruction from 6th April 2021 to 10th December 2022. the section between Liestal and Lampenberg-Ramlinsburg is also closed from 28th June 2020 to 9th August 2020 in connection with the quadruple tracking of the SBB line.
The rolling stock of the old lne, and a lot of other equipment besides, has been acquired by the Slowak Čiernohronská Železnica narrow gauge railway. This is the railway which is famous for running through a stadium.
A dream finally came true.
The SBB crocodiles are among the most iconic of all Swiss locomotives. 51 were built between 1919 and 1927 for the electrification of the Gotthard railway. With their long snouts, large wheels, steam-engine-like coupling rods and hinged construction, they were fascinting to observe in action, whether spiralling around the church at Wassen or shunting in a freight yard. Following the arrival of larger locomotives on the Gotthard route in the 1950s and 60s, the crocodiles were displaced onto lesser duties, with many surviving on freight duties into the 1970s. A number of modified locomotives were even used for shunting in the Basel docks until 1986.
With their immense popularity among both enthusiasts and the public at large, it is no surprise that numerous examples were preserved, some of which are operational. According to Wikipedia, of the 33 locomotives of the earlier variant, Ce 6/8ii, seven survive, and of the 18 of the later variant, Ce 6/8iii, three survive.
One locomotive that survived but did not get the care or attention it deserved was Ce 6/8ii 14270, which was plinthed outside SBB's Ersttfeld depot until 2013 (seen on the photo here in 2010, more views here), and looking increasingly sorry for itself. The group OERLIKON Industriegeschichten hatched a plan for bringing this machine home to Oerlikon. A plan that has finally been achieved.
The mechanical part of the crocodiles was built by SLM in Winterthur. The electrical equipment was subsequently fitted by MFO in Oerlikon (MFO, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon was bought out by BBC in 1967, which in turn became part of ABB in 1988. The present "Cityport" headquarters of ABB is on the site of a former MFO factory adjoining Oerlikon station). The crocodiles were assembed in a different MFO factory located approximately where the PWC building now stands on Binzmühlestrasse. The tracks were still visible here until recently, but have vanished in connection with the ongoing redevelopment work that transformed the entire area. At one time a long and partly street-running industrial track connected to SBB at both ends, at both Oerlikon and Seebach stations, and branched to serve various industries in the area. The locomotive now stands more or less on a small part of the former alignment of the "main line" of this track.
After it ceased to be used for industrial purposes, the great assembly hall served as a musical theatre for several years but could unfortunately not be saved. Today very little remains that bears witness to Oerlikon's once great industrial prowess. Bringing 14270 home and displaying it on a plinth outside the PWC building will help redress that loss and serve to mark the birthplace of this remarkable locomotive type.
It took many years of fundraising as well as political campaigning to make the project possible. But finally on 15th June it happened. The locomotive had previously been cosmetically overhauled in the SBB workshops in Biel and towed to Oerlikon by an SBB Re 4/4. From here it made the last leg of its journey to its plinth by low-loader lorry. The plinth has a roof to protect the locomotive from the rain. A touch screen display will inform visitors about its history. OERLIKON Industriegeschichten is still seeking donations to finalize and maintain the exhibit.
A great and heartfelt thank you to all involved.
Meanwhile, on their own web page, Forchbahn expresses reget over having allowed these cars to be shipped to Madagascar. The company says that it has learnt from this mistake and that the Tram 2000 units which will be replaced in a couple of years will definitely not be sent to a developing country, but most likely be scrapped.
This outlook does not appeared to be shared by all Swiss railways, as RBS and FLP are sending their Mandarinli to ... Madagascar.
The recent post suggesting the imminent arrival of the third Flexity in Zürich turned out to have been a false alarm.
Is a fine tradition threatened by health and safety concerns? Zürich's trams are traditionally decorated with flags on special days. But on the approaching 1st August Swiss national holiday, trams will have to run without.
According to bahnforum.ch the third Flexity is being delivered today (Thursday 30th July).
Update: this was a false alarm.
According to a bahnforum.ch item dated 17th July, the first Flexity, 4001, should debut in passenger service on route 11 on 30th August. However, this news is from an informal source and may also be outdated. Other sources suggest an official announcement will be made in September.
The Mirage double set (borrowed from the tram museum on account of VBZ's shortage of trams) is still in service on route 13. The typical schedule (Monday to Friday) is depart Depot 8 (Oerlikon) circa 15:15, Salersteg in direction city 15:21, Escher-Wyss-Platz in direction Frankental 17:15, Bahnhofstr/HB in direction Albisgütli 18:03, Bahnhofstr/HB in direction Frankental 18:42, departs Albisgütli for Frankental 20:24.
Ex-BLT trams are entering service on Thüringerwaldbahn in Germany. The headlight cluster is being modified to suit German requirements. It appears the BLT livery is being retained with the red stripe being replaced by blue.
Delivery of new trolleybuses is proceeding at pace, with 204 being reported in service.
There has been some doubt over the precise number of new vehicles being delivered, with earlier sources saying eight, and more recent ones saying nine, although some suggested that "prototype" 183 was somehow included in the final number. However, it appears this is not actually the case and that eight new trolleybuses are earmarked for route 83 (although presently being run-in on other routes) whereas a ninth has been added to the order to be able to run an additional vehicle on route 72, needed due to anticipated extended journey times on account of 30kph speed limits being applied in residential streets.
Although the occasional rare sighting of number 183 on route 83 has not been unknown, it is now official that the route is now being converted to trolleybus and that the eight new trolleybuses (200-207) presently being delivered are dedicated for this route. The electrification is being achieved without any new overhead line. The buses will cover the considerable unelectrified portion of the route using battery power (7.6 km without overhead lines vs 7.6km with overhead lines).
A contribution on bahnforum.ch reports on a visit by member Cyrill to the railway workshops of Antananarivo in Madagascar, with photographs of the ex-Forchbahn cars and also the ex-Trogenerbahn unit. They are still in surprisingly good condition despite having been stored in the open since 2004 and 2005. The author of the post writes that there is still some hope that the project involving these cars can be realized somehow.
Restrictions in connection with the Corona virus are getting increasingly drastic. All regular railways within Switzerland are still operating, but in many cases with reduced frequency. Ridership is down to about 10 percent of normal levels. Tourist railways have been closed down altogether. This includes Glacier Express and SBB Historic specials. Cross-border traffic to Italy is greatly reduced. For example on the Centovalli railway, only a handful of trains serving primarily cross-border commuters are still running. All trains to and from Austria are suspended.
Further to today's earlier report on the delivery of the second Flexity car today, the tram is reported as currently being on a motorway car park on the German side of the border somewhere to the north of Basel.
With testing of the first Flexity ongoing, 4001 is now wandering beyond the core VBZ network and welcomed on Glattalbahn.
The second Flexity tram is due to arrive tonight.
VBZ has announced measures to reduce risk from the Corona virus.
Among others, as from tomorrow (11th March) doors will be opened at all stops, avoiding the need for passengers to touch push buttons. To protect staff, the window bewteen cab and passenger compartment on trams will remain closed as will, on buses, the forward door (with passengers being prevented from standing in the forward area). On those bus routes where tickets could until now still be bought from the driver, this will also be suspended. VBZ are also recommending that those passengers who can do so, work from home.
The first of nine new Hess Swisstrolley5 is now in Zürich. It carries the number 200. The new trolleybuses will be used to permit conversion of route 83 to trolleybus operation. This conversion will not involve the construction of any new overhead lines but trolleybuses will run in battery mode on the unwired sections.
I missed this one previously, but the project to re-use the ex-RBS Mandarinli in Madagascar is getting serious. According to bahnonline.ch, number 60 was loaded onto a low-loader lorry at Bätterkinden on 3rd February. Sister vehicle, 59, is taking the same route. They pair will be joined in Madagascar by ex-FLP 21-25 and 41-42 when these are withdrawn.
I still don't know what excatly is planned for these units in Madagascar. In 2006 a number of vehicles from different Swiss narrow-gauge railways, mostly ex-Forchbahn, were sent them for a proposed tramway in Antananarivo which never materialized.
Two further Mandarinli are expected to remain on RBS temporarily as spare units. The society, Bahnhistorischer Verein Solothurn-Bern, are attempting to drum up support to preserve one when it becomes available. See their page on the type here.
The proponents of the combined road tunnel and surface tram solution were maybe trying to please everybody while satisfying nobody. When the faction who wanted a tram but no road tunnel joined forces with the faction who wanted a road tunnel but no tram, any hope of a combined solution were dashed.
Here is an interesting article showing the twelve buildings that would have had to be torn down: tsri.ch/zh/rosengartentunnel-abreissen-gentrifizierung-rosengartenstrasse/. Some of these buildings would have had to make way for the tunnel portals, but others were needed for the tram, including those required to build a tram junction at Albisriederplatz, and the corner building at Bucheggstr/Wehntalerstr which presumably would have eased the alignment of the tram curve (I think the other houses on the list were all in the way of road measures). Obviously none of these buildings are of any great urbanist value, and their preservation is hardly an argument against a project such as this. But the list highlights the scale of the project. Certainly, with some creative thinking, alternatives could have been found that could have brought down costs and percieved impact.
Personally, I feel the need for a tram here is more political than real. There are other bus routes suffering from far greater overcrowding. Whereas the Affoltern line (route 32) is now showing realistic signs of getting trams, this is not presently on the horizon for Hohlstrasse (route 31). Whereas these routes are graced by double-articulated trolleybuses, and often filled to the seams nevertheless, the Rosengarten route sees only single-articulated trolleybuses (route 72) and diesel buses (route 83). If demand were to increase here, this could be first met by larger trolleybuses and by providing dedicated bus lanes — which would mean a restriction in road capacity which would have to addressed in some way — thus taking us back to the core of the problem. However, dedicated bus lanes could have tram rails added at some point in the future if the need is there. The competing need for road space need not be directly between trams and cars.
The need to create a tangential tram link between the growing new areas in the north and in the west of Zürich while avoiding the central area has to be addressed, and is right in terms of the strategic development of the tram network. The question is whether Rosengartenstrasse is the best place for this. For example it has been said the gradient would impose severe speed restrictions for trams running downhill, and thus be slower than today's trolleybus, especially if the trolleybus could be put on a dedicated lane instead.
Maybe part of the motivation behind insisting on a tram here is about the ideological satisafcation of seeing a major and much hated thoroughfare replaced by a tram line? This maybe also explains the proposed tram continuing its itinerary on the upper level of Hardbrücke even though there are already tracks on the lower level. Ideologically pleasing and symbolic solutions are not always the best or most practical. Maybe there is even a hint of a first-world-problem syndrome here.
How about instead building a tram line from Schaffhasuerplatz via Rotbuchstr and Kornhausbrücke to Limmatplatz, and then using Langstrasse to join Badenerstrasse? That would leave the question of Rosengartenstrasse to be solved another day.
It is often implied that trolleybuses are a difficult proposition to sell. Numerous trolleybus systems have vanished between the 1960s and the present day. Even in relatively recent years in Switzerland, often considered a stronghold of common sense and trolleybuses, we have seen the disappearance of trolleybuses from Lugano, Basel, La Chaux de Fonds with Schaffhausen and Winterthur surviving only be the skin of their teeth. In the case of Schaffhausen the risk is maybe not yet over as the town is looking at battery buses.
Trams have seen a huge revival all across the globe. There have been some new trolleybus system too, but not on a scale in any way comparable to that of trams. With the recent trend towards green energy and electrification, it might have seemed that a new opportunity was opening for trolleybuses. But the limelight was stolen by hybrid and battery buses.
One interesting development has been that of trolleybuses with increased battery range. Besides being able to deviate from their usual route, for example to circumvent roadworks, cost savings can be obtained by simplifying junctions and removing the wires on entire segments of route. Wiring a junction is far more costly than wiring a straight section of road. So on the one hand such trolleybuses are leading to an erosion of classical trolleybus operation while at the same time new routes can be electrified at lower cost.
So are battery trolleybuses the beginning of the slow abolition of trolleybuses, or can they help re-grow lost systems? Is the glass half full or half empty? Positive signs are recently coming from Berlin, a city that lost its trolleybuses decades ago, but where there are now plans to electrify four routes using an "in motion charging" (IMC) system similar to that of Zürich.
Initially, line M32 will be elctrified as a pilot line and equipped with double articulated trolleybuses. In the longer term 15 lines could be converted, costing some 300 million Euros, including 190 vehicles operating on 235km, of which 148 wired. Initial investment is 50% higher than for a comparable battery system.
On Saturday, the tram museum held a sale of surplus inventory at Escher-Wyss-Platz depot as preparation for their impending move. The city wants to rebuild the depot and create appartments by adding a tower block over the rear part of the site. This means the tram museum must vacate the parts of the present complex it has long used as workshop and store. The event was well visited, both by people in search of souvenirs and by those seeking to say farewell to this piece of history.
Among the visitors was Flexity 4001, suitably marked as route 21 (the number of the museum line). My latest photo upload includes pictures of the new tram as well as general impressions of the depot, as well as some totally unconnected recent shots from Budapest.
Yesterday's vote on the Rosengartentunnel project was surprisingly rejected by 63.7 percent to 36.3.
The 7 units of this type presently in service on FLP (Lugano to Ponte Tresa railway) will be replaced by new Stadler tram-trains from this autumn. According to the article's sources, the old trains will then be shipped to Madagascar, together with two of the virtually identical RBS Mandarinli, where they will be used on a new line.
Unfortunately there are no mock-ups of the top end around Milchbuck and Bucheggplatz. I understand that rather than running around the block at Milchbuck as the trolleybus presently does, trams will use Wehntalerstrasse in both directions and thus approach Milchbuck from the South side.
The first visualization is one that already appeared in the previous posting but is repeated here for completeness, with the tram that escaped from the 2000s already some way below Bucheggplatz.
The next one, a little further down, shows the junction at Lehenstrasse, which isn't really changing much apart from the tram itself. I doubt that the building in the background (presently under construction) is accurate, but we'll see when the scaffolding finally comes down.
The next one down is the lower part of Rosengartenstrasse. The beginnings of the mouth of the road tunnel cause a lot of cluttering of the space and overall asphalt space does not seem to be significantly reduced. On the right of the picture, behind those trees, Röschibachstrasse branches off. This road was once used by a tram line to Bahnhof Wipkingen. So the very short portion of the new tram line from here to Wipkingerplatz (behind us) revives a section of tram that once was.
The next one is not at all tram relevant, but just for completeness, here is a view of the road tunnel. This is facing Hardbrücke. The road tunnel will be four-lane between the lower end and the intermediate tunnel entrance ramp at Bucheggplatz, and just two lane onwards towards Milchbuck. At the lower end (picture), the four lanes split with one per direction going up to Hardbrücke (as seen from the outside in the previous two views) and two down to Wipkingerlatz (as seen from the outside in the view that will follow after this one).
And finally Wipkingerplatz. The tram will continue on Hardbrücke itself. This is a surprising decison seeing there are already tram tracks running under the viaduct. So there will be two tram lines running one above the other here for a distance of three stops.
To complete the overwiew, here is a map showing both the tram line along its full length and the road tunnel making its curve. The tracks between Bahnhof Hardbrücke and Hardplatz are already in place. The rest must be built.
All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.
I have just learnt that SEPTA (Philadelphia) are to end the operation of PCC trams on 25th January. SEPTA made big waves in the tram world when in 2005 they not only reintroduced trams to route 15, a service that had not seen trams for 13 years, but did so with specially rebuilt 1940s PCC cars. Sadly, that is now over as it is claimed the PCCs have reached the end of their economic lifespan. Route 15 will go back to being a bus route as the replacement cars have not yet been ordered.
An important vote is approaching. On 9th February the voters of the Canton of Zürich will decide on the Rosengartentunnel project. At the centre of this dicussion is the major road via Rosengartenstrasse and Bucheggstrasse that forms the continuation of Hardbrücke northward to Milchbuck (where it joins a tunnel towards the motorway). The thoroughfare is used by 56,000 vehicles a day. The future of this road has long been a subject of much political dispute, not least because it cuts through a densely populated area. The road lobby have favoured replacing the road by a tunnel which they claim would permit traffic to flow more freely while relieving traffic conditions on the surface. Pro-public-transport groups have opposed this and instead sought to reduce capacity and discourage driving in the city altogether.
Compromises are, fortunately, always the favoured way of resolving political differences in Switzerland. A compromise led to a proposal involving a road tunnel (rebranded from Waidhaldetunnel to Rosengartentunnel and somewhat reduced in scope), with a tram line being built on the surface. The tram line would run from Milchbuck to Albisriederplatz (incorporating the already built section on Hardbrücke) as proposed in VBZ's Vision 2025 (published 2006).
Such compromises between political adversaries are often endangered by opportunism. In 2010, a popular referendum to build the tram part without building the tunnel, thus effectively constricting road capacity, was rejected by 65.9%. Fortunately that result was not widely used to discredit the tram proposal.
The official project will be voted on on 9th February. The total cost of the project will be 1,100 million CHF. The 3.1km of new tram line account for 165 million and the road tunnel 600 million, with the rest for planning, reserve, and the acquisition of some properties.
The project is supported by the centre-right parties but opposed by some of the centre-left (although supported by some public transport groups). A recent survey shows 49 percent of voters in favour of the project with 27 percent against, with opponents gaining ground (according to this NZZ article).
The alignment is presently used by trolleybus 72 throughout and for a short section at its lower end by trolleybus 33. At its Milchbuck end also by diesel bus route 69 which is one of those earmarked for conversion to trolleybus. I have not seen any announcement on how these will be affected but cutbacks are highly likely, with the 72 most definitely losing its justification.
It is of course inevitable that the construction phase will lead to some disruptions. But the tunnel itself will be bored rather than built by cut and cover, and will not follow the present road alignment, instead taking a more gradual and elongated curve to avoid the gradient. I also assume that, in order to minimize disruption, construction of the tram line will not start in earnest until the road tunnel has been opened.
The artists' impressions above (created by Architron) show the tunnel portal at its lower (Wipikingen) end with two Cobra trams (upper picture), and another Cobra underway further uphill (lower picture - in the discontinued livery of the prototypes).
VBZ's Facebook feed has published photos of the new Flexity tram on its nightly test runs in front of Hauptbahnhof and also in Oerlikon.
In a press release published today, VBZ also re-iterates its ambition to have the first Flexity in passenger service this Summer. New trams will spend their first 25 days of passenger service on route 11, where it will be easier service them due to the location of Oerlikon depot (where the initial cars will be allocated). After this burn-in, they will be transferred to route 4, which is presently considered the route with the greatest capacity problems. By the end of this year, 9 or 10 cars should be in service.
Trams displaced by the new additions will initially be transferred to other routes to address the general vehicle shortage. VBZ hopes this will be resolved by the end of this year.
VBZ employ 980 people with tram driving duties. Training will begin in April and extend over a three-year period. The Flexity will replace Tram 2000 pairs on routes 2, 4, 7, 11, 13, 14 and 17.
During opening times, heritage trams will operate from Schifflände via Bahnhof SBB to the museum which is in Dreispitz depot.
Seen yesterday at Bucheggplatz, Swisstrolleyplus 183 now in standard Zürich livery rather than the livery it carried as an experimental bus (as in the photo). It was stated that the research project would end in late 2019, so this would indicate that 183 is now just a regular part of the fleet. I will look out for and report on any publication of the findings.
It is being reported that a project is underway to ship some of the RBS Mandarinli trains to Madagascar. I hope this is not an echo of the failed attempt to start a service with ex-Forchbahn units there in 2005. Watch this space for news.