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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This website recently reported on the 10 ex-Luzern trolleybuses crossing the Atlantic to Valparaíso, giving that system a much needed injection of modern equipment. Now it seems an ex-Genève trolleybus may be making the return journey. An association has been formed in Geneva to bring about the repatriation of 617. This articulated trolleybus was one of 21 built by Berna / Schlieren / Sécheron and operated in Geneva from 1965 until 1991. 14 of the type were then sold to Valparaíso with 5 entering service and the others being used for spares. 617 is the last of these to remain operational.
Besides seeking to repatriate 617 and operate it on its home system, the newly formed VTA (Vintage Trolleybus Association) is also seeking to save two more modern trolleybuses currently still part of the active fleet. These are 666 of 1982 and 681 of 1987. VTA would be happy to accept any support for its goals.
It is wonderfulness to see a new association formed with such noble and support-worthy goals. It would be wonderful if one day in Zürich too a similar association could bring some of the surviving old trolleybuses back to the streets.
Bernmobil is seeking to acquire 40 new trams. 20 of these will be required for the new Köniz - Ostermundigen tram route and 20 to replace older trams. The trams coming up for replacement are the Vevey cars (731-742) of 1989-90 and the Tram 2000s (81-89) on lease from RBS of 1987-88 (extended with low-floor sections in 2010) — how 12 plus 9 makes 20 is not explained. If the communities of Bern, Köniz und Ostermundigen approve the new tram route on 28th September, Bernmobil will commence the acquisition process with the hope of determining a supplier in 2015 and deliveries between 2018 and 2024.
Bernmobil will also be replacing its 20 trolleybuses by 2020. Tests have already been performed using a borrowed Zürich trolleybus to evaluate running without overhead lines for a section outside the parliament building.
bahnhofplatz.net (citing Der Bund)
Schaffhausen's trolleybus has seen a remarkable revival. Threatened with abandonment, the comeback from the brink began in 2008 when the city decided to retain and renew the system. This was followed in 2010 by an order for seven new trolleybuses, renewing the entire fleet. A new substation was also installed and a new maintenace vehicle acquired. However, the recommendations of the 2008 study went further than merely replacing what already existed. The study proposed electrification of a second route to create operating synergies. This is precisely what Schaffhausen is now planning to do.
An electrification of route 3 (Sommerwise - Krummacker) will cost 13 million CHF, of which 9 million for the overhead lines and 4 for substations. Furthermore, seven new trolleybuses will be required. Besides synergies with route 1, advantages are identified in the suitability of trolleybuses to the hilly nature of the route, noise reduction and environemntal objectives.
Schaffhausen is presently applying for federal support for this programme.
The final death knell of the (presently officially suspended but effectively closed) La Chaux de Fonds trolleybus has not yet been spoken, but it has long been a forgone conclusion. This is not helped, of course, by the system's three Solaris trolleybuses being sold to Budapest. They will be delivered to their new home at the end of this year.
Gunter Mackinger, director of Salzburg's transport system, has long been an untiring advocate of trolleybuses, championing the mode in times that it is not universally popular. He is internationally recognized as an expert and his opinions and example have over the years been a pillar of the worldwide trolleybus cause.
Unexpectedly, however, he has been removed from office from 31st July and placed in an advisory role. Officially this is explained with the need to restructure the undertaking. Inofficially, the decison appears to be politically motivated, and could well turn out to be the beginning of a broader attack on the trolleybus system.
A petition has been launched in favour of reinstating Mackinger. This petition can be signed on http://secure.avaaz.org/de/petition/petition_53ed124e82477/ .
Follwoing a continuing spate of crossing accidents on Glattalbahn (the new brighter livery introduced last year didn't help), further crossings are being fitted with barriers. One Cobra tram is furthermore experimentaly fitted with a third headlight, railway style.
Swisstrolley4 was loaned to Bern for demonstartion purposes.
GTZs still in service are 106, 122, 129, 131, 137 and 142
There is still no definite news about the new tram order, but plenty of indefinite rumours. An article in Handelszeitung suggests that VBZ and ZVV have differing opinions over which model to chose. According to the source, VBZ had expressed a preference for Bombardier's offering, with that of Siemens being ranked second. ZVV's preferences were not indicated.
Cobra 3034, which was damaged by arson in January 2013 (at the time I mistakenly reported it as 3043) finally returned to traffic in late June. The cost of the repair has not been revealed, but two segments had to be sent to their birthplace in Bombardier's Bautzen factory.
Following the delivery of the final Eem923 shunting locomotive to SBB, Stadler closed its Winterthur works. The event happened quietly and was hardly picked up by the press or media, maybe reflecting how this activity was already perceived as a thing of the past.
Winterthur can look back on 142 years of railway engineering under the world-renowned SLM (Schweizerische Lokomotiv und Maschinenfabrik). One part of the former SLM was spun off in the 1990s, with fresh hope being kindled when these were absorbed by Stadler in 2006.
Due to exchange rate developments, the seemingly unstoppable Stadler found difficult acquiring export orders for its Swiss plants (although this is offset by some positive growth for its foreign operations). Some of the Winterthur staff could be transferred to other Stadler sites, but information from official sources remains vague.
Schweizer Eisenbahn Revue 8-9/2014
The retrenchment of night trains is continuing its tragic course. December of this year will see the loss of the CNL (CityNightLine) Basel-Copenhahen and all Paris trains. At least the Paris train is still well patronized but CNL wishes to withdraw the Schindler double-decker sleeping cars (which despite being relatively modern, are not proving as reliable as desired). With no new rolling stock in sight, further retrenchments seem likely as the present fleet shrinks.
Schweizer Eisenbahn Revue 8-9/2014
There is still no news on Zürich's decision on the new tram order. But for those interested in what Stadler may offer, an interesting artist's impression has appeared in the 2014 Stadler Press Conference pack. Stadler was unable to offer the BLT-type Tango to Zürich as VBZ specified an all low-floor tram. The illustrated car looks as it may be a hybrid of the BLT Tango and the classic Variobahn. But it may equally by an artist's doodle with little connection to what is being proposed. Only time will tell.
In terms of styling, the proposed Tango bears a resemblance to the earlier proposals for Cobra.
Limmattalbahn has chosen a site for its depot. The depot will be built at the "Müsli" site (nothing to do with breakfast cereal), adjoining the SBB Limmattal marshaling yard between Dietikon and Spreitenbach. The depot will provide space for 14 trams.
Zürich's new cross city rail link, Durchmesserlinie, is to open this Saturday (14th June 2014). Regular S-Bahn operations will commence on Sunday. Long distance trains will commence using the service from December 2015.
At the end of 2008, SZU celebrated a farewell tour for its "Uetliberg tram" Ce 2/2 2 + C 41. This set, dating from the electrification of the line in the 1920s had been retained by SZU as a heritage set. However, the combination of infrequent use and shortage of depot space led to the decision to part with this jewel. At the time it was said that the set would go to he transport museum in Luzern and might even return to the SZU for special occasions. Sadly, the transport museum could not offer the set a permanent space. With the five years of its stay now over, the historic set was once again homeless.
The set has been saved by a venture seeking to convert it to bistro at Lagerplatz in Winterthur. More information on Lagerplatz is available on their webiste www.lagerplatz.ch (but as yet no coverage of this project).
C 42, sister unit of C 41, was damaged in a shunting incident in 2002 and later scrapped in a rescue exercise.
Looking back on the TOSA trial ten months on, the prototype has operated on average three to four days per week and accumulated 8000km without any major problems or failures. The price of energy consumed is 30% lower than that of an equivalent diesel.
TPG planns to deploy vehicles of this type of route 23 from 2016. Route 23 is presently a diesel route. The decision not to use it as an immediate trolleybus replacement as previously suggested is good news.
Tram magazine 05-07.2014
Zürich's new cross-city tunnel, Durchmesserlinie, is to be opened on 15th June. Initially the line will be used only by S-Bahn trains, but once remaining work is completed, long distance trains will start using it from December 2015.
The tunnel essentially peels off the present line west of Oerlikon station to then form an elongated underground S permitting Hauptbahnhof to be approached from the east. The line will have four underground platforms at Hauptbahnhof. Beyond these platform the line will rise to the surface and feed into the station throat. However, a viaduct (presently still under construction) will commence here re-joining the main line at Altstetten. Oerlikon is also being widened from 6 to 8 platforms.
Tram magazine 05-07.2014
An article in westnetz.ch looks at VBZ's future bus strategy. VBZ recognizes electric traction as the way forwards. With trams already being electric, focus will be on more electric power for the buses. This policy will be reflected in a mix of trolleybus, batter bus and hybrid bus operation.
A hybrid bus is presently already under evaluation and experiences gained with this vehicle will flow into the next bus acquisition, whose delivery should begin in December 2015.
Battery buses could appear on the Quartierbusse (the shorter bus routes with lighter traffic serving the neighborhoods).
Of interest for the trolleybus system is the objective to make more use of the on-board batteries fitted to the newer vehicles for travelling shorter distances without wires, for example to eliminate complex junctions and their customized and expensive overhead lines. Field trials will be conducted to evaluate the efficient de and rewiring of trolleybuses in such locations. The article also mentions the proposed electrification of the 69 and 80.
Tram magazine 05-07.2014
Winterthur is planning to add a new trolleybus route. The 22 will be a peak-only short-working of the 2 between Schloss Wülflingen and Waldegg.
Tram magazine 05-07.2014
The two new Lightrams, 90 and 91, have been in service since April.
Also withdrawn in March and April were O405 GTZ numbers 115, 124, 137 and 140 (140 was one of the pair used in the farewell tour last year). However, 137 has since been reinstated. 124 and 140 are being dismantled for spares. This leaves seven active trolleybuses of this type in service: 106, 113, 122, 129, 131, 137 and 142, of which at least 106 and 122 have received inspections approving their continued deployment until March 2015.
On the topic of future development of the network, VBZ is planning to join the peak-only trolleybus route 71 (only created last December) to the peak-only bus route 95 from this December. As the 95 is not electrified, the new route would have to be diesel-operated throughout. This will probably spell the end of more of the GTZs (route 71 currently requires three units). As previously discussed, the proposed cutting back of route 31 from Schlieren to Bahnhof Altstetten (for construction of Limmattal light rail) will release Lightrams permitting route 31 to be extended at its other end by taking over route 34 to Witikon. But the future of the trolleybus system does not about to just be about consolidation. Despite proposed electrification of the (presently diesel operated) route 69 not being financed, planning of the work is to start in 2014. It is envisaged to operate double-articulated trolleybuses on this hilly route serving the Hönngerberg university campus. Electrification of the 80, which also serves this site, is equally still on the cards.
10 non-articulated trolleybuses from Luzern are set to make the long journey to Valparaíso. Valparaíso is Chile's only trolleybus system. The fleet already includes former Swiss trolleybuses fromn several Swiss cities (including two from Zürich) as well as Ameican-built trolleybuses from the 1950s. There were at a time rumours that the city might be acquiring ex-Winterthur GTZs, but these attempts did not prove fruitful.
An old dining car has found a new lease of life as a restaurant in Oerlikon. The car sets on an industrial siding in Neubrunnenstrasse, where it will remain until probably 2015. The restaurant is open on weekdays for lunch. The car is ex SOB WR 452 which has already had a previous mention on this newslog. It was the restaurant car that ran in SOB's Gipfelexpress between Zürich Altstetten and Einsiedeln until 2008.
Schweizer Eisenbahn Revue
Following on from previous sad reports on the degradation of long distance trains, I have learn that DB is dropping dining car service from its CNL night trains from the beginning of April. A choice of drinks and snacks will continue to be available from staff.
Schweizer Eisenbahn Revue
In 2008 Basel abolished its trolleybus. BVB and the city council convinced voters to approve the measure by promising them clean and environmental gas buses. Originally these would have used compost gas, but this was later corrected as being natural gas. With these gas buses now up for premature replacement, the next generation will be of normal diesel buses. So a salami tactic of false and misleading promises has destroyed a trolleybus system.
BVB is to receive 61 Flexity trams from Bombardier rather than 60 as previously planned. The reason being the formula used to adapt for inflation would have qualified BVB for a refund. Instead they opted for an additional tram. The first Flexity will arrive in the third quarter of this year.
Schweizer Eisenbahn Revue
Trolleybus route 34 has long been somewhat special. In Zürich trolleybuses are not otherwise found on such peripheral feeder routes. The inhabitants of Witikon, however, have long been petitioning for a direct link to central Zürich. If current plans come to fruition, their desire will be granted in 2017 with the 31 and 34 being joined into a single route. 2017 is also the year that the 31 will be cut back at its other end (Altstetten to Schlieren) to permit construction of the Limmattalbahn tram, making the double-articulated trolleybuses available for this extension.
The two additional Lightrams ordered last year will be delivered this month.
Meanwhile, GTZ 115 was withdrawn earlier this month. On the other hand 106 and 113 have received overhauls that may extend their working lives by another year.
A great Youtube find: footage from Basel in 1989.
My latest photo update with the opening of Freiburg's extension to Gundelfingen.
Thanks to user Martin S. of bahnhofplatz.net for finding this gem.
I have uploaded a short recent movie of random BVB and BLT tram movements on Centralbahnplatz to Youtube.
With delivery of Swisstrolleys being completed in September, withdrawal of Mercedes/ABB GTZs came to a temporary halt. 10 units presently remaining in service (according to my notes, these are 106, 113, 115, 122, 124, 129, 131, 137, 140 and 142). It was announced last year, that they would remain until April. Two Lightrams are still to be delivered, but beyond this no further trolleybus acquisitions are in the immediate planning. It is not clear whether there is any connection, but there are apparently six diesel buses on order that could replace the remaining GTZs, at least for the interim period until Tram Hardbrücke opens (in 2017), making route 71 superfluous. So ride and photograph these trolleybuses while you can!
On the topic of GTZ disposals, it was 133's turn to be scrapped on 19th February. This was one of the vehicles withdrawn last year.
My latest photo update is a rather random collection of tram and rail scenes from Switzerland and Spain.
One of the items in this weekend's referenda was FABI, a law that will provide more money for the railway, enhancing capacity on certain lines and nodes permitting service frequencies to be increased. Continuing in tradition of major rail projects, 62 percent of voters approved FABI. The proposal was put forwards by federal government after its hand was forced by pro-rail groups asking for more far-reaching measures.
No, you haven't missed it. The decision on Zürich's new trams is still being awaited with baited breath. According to an article in Handelszeitung, the main competitors are now Siemens and Stadler, with Stadler proposing a variant of its Tango type.
Off topic, but maybe of interest is the sad news that heritage Routemaster operation of London's route 9 is to cease this July. After this only the 15 will continue to operate with heritage Routemasters.
Appenzellerbahn has ordered seven Tango trams from Stadler. These will operate the future through service between Trogen and Teufen. The older Stadler units of Trogenerbahn will be retained (the timetable requiring eight units in service) but the older BDe4/8 are to be sold, possibly to Rittnerbahn (Austria).
Back in 2005, this newslog reported that to mark Zürich's sister city relationship with San Francisco, that the latter city was to run a Zürich tram (actually a Bruxelles PCC painted in VBZ colours) on its heritage F route. Technical issues eventually curtailed the operation of 737, but according to San Francisco's Market Street Railway website, the car is soon to return, and has recently been seen under test.
I have been asked about the status of Cobra number 3034, which was the victim of an arson attack on 1st January 2013 (at the time I erroneously reported the number as 3043). Initially it was not clear whether the tram could be saved, but later a repair was deemed to be viable. Progress has been slow, not least as work took second place to the more routine maintenance and repairs required to keep the rest of the fleet rolling. The rate of dismantling was impeded by the severely scorched condition of many of the parts. Two body segments were found to have suffered structural damage and were sent to Bombardier in Bautzen, Germany (where the body segments were built) for rebuilding. A return to traffic is presently expected around Easter. VBZ has produced the video below showing scenes of the repair so far.
Spotted today: The new route maps already depict Zürich's new cross-city rail link, Durchmesserlinie (albeit as a dotted line). The line is slated to open this summer for S-Bahn traffic, and at the end of the year for long-distance trains.
In the debate around the re-routing of the Alstetten tram (replacing its present direct route between Lindenplatz and Farbhof with a dog leg via Bahnhof Altstetten) the city council recently voted in line with the local desire to preserve the present alignment. The cantonal parliament, however, has now taken the contrarian view and wants to continue with the project as planned.
A group of artists in Winterthur are campaigning to save Deutweg bus depot. The structure will cease to serve as depot this year, with its functions being transferred to an extended facility at Grüzefeld. Whereas the city wishes to tear down the structure and redevelop the land residentially, IG Busdepot Deutweg is seeking to maintain the central shed as a centre for artists. Their website is here. The oldest part of the depot was completed in 1914, and originally served as the city's tram depot. Some of the pictures on the site show tram rails still in place. Winterthur's last tram line closed in 1951.
While on the subject of Winterthur, the new trolleybus is to arrive imminently, and could be in service on 22nd January. The addition vehicle will permit a shortening of peak headways on route 2.
Scrutiny of the Cargotram (and E-tram) timetable shows a further destination has been added. Hard (Escher-Wyss-Platz depot) is served (commencing 11th January). This raises the number of destinations served to 10 (plus Strassenverkehrsamt which is listed as Cargotram in the timetable but is actually served by lorry) – the highest number yet. Cargotram/E-tram destinations are currently Albisrieden, Burgwies, Hirzenbach, Letzigrund, Seebach, Tiefenbrunnen, Hard, Irchel, Wartau and Wollishofen.
I have added some pictures of a tram accident that occurred this morning, as well as recent views of French trams.
(or all together here)
Zürich's city council has voted on Wednesday in favour of keeping tram route 2 on its present alignment in Altstetten, and is opposing the executive council who wants to take it off Badenerstrasse and build a detour via Bahnhof Altstetten. Altstetten residents fear that losing trams through the centre of their neighbourhood will erode its function and could cause businesses to move away, leading to an overall loss of livability. The re-alignment is being proposed in conjunction with Limmattalbahn.
A Happy New Year to all readers.
All 2013 news items can now be found on www.proaktiva.ch/tram/zurich/newslog/2013.html.
The past year did not start too well, as the first news item announced that Cobra 3034 had been ravaged by fire. The ordering of the new trams that will replace the Tram 2000s of the 1970s batch has also slipped and an announcement is still being eagerly awaited. So much for the bad news. Otherwise the Zürich news was rather more upbeat in 2013. In terms of the route newtork, tram 17 has been extended to Albisgüli at peak times and extra services to the airport added. This is of course placing a squeeze on the fleet, but so far VBZ has coped well.
In terms of preservation and museum news, the highlight of the year was undoubtedlly the return of Kurbeli 1379 and trailer 737 to Zürich (before being moved into storage).
And now to the trolleybuses: 2013 saw the delivery of the Hess Swisstrolley4s, 162-182. Together with Lightrams 87-89 (delivered in 2012), 21 new single-articulated trolleybuses and 12 new double-articulated are available, replacing in principle 43 Mercedes/ABB 0405 GTZ (101-143). The discrepancy of 10 trolleybuses is explained by higher capacity vehicles on route 32 permitting peak headways to be stretched and meaning four fewer trolleybuses are required. Furthermore, the exchanging of the Triemli - respectively Morgental - legs of routes 33 and 72 and the introduction of a relief route 71 while thinning out end-to-end workings slightly mean one vehicle can be economised here. The remaining shortfall is being covered by a small number of GTZs being retained in traffic a little longer. Presently there are about 10 of these remaining. They are turning 20 years old this year. In a move to replace these, two further Lightrams have been ordered for delivery in 2014. In the longer term the opening of the Hardbrücke tram link (in 2017) should reduce trolleybus operation on Hardbrücke (although diesel buses could be used as an intermediary, so there is no speculating how long these trolleybuses are safe).
However, if initial rumblings come to fruition, the trolleybus system may grow overall with the 69 possibly slated for electrification by 2016 and the 80 also being under consideration. On the preservation front, it sadly seems that no GTZ is being saved locally but Rétrobus has saved GTZ 102 as well as its Winterthur sister vehicles 147 and 149. Presently, Zürich's 106 is the city's only trolleybus to still sport display blinds rather than matrix displays, leaving it in close to its original condition. It would seem that the German dealership, Sturm, is still hanging onto Winterthur sister units.