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Is ‘free’ transit really free?

Is ‘free’ transit really free?

What’s a transit pass worth? To the customer, it is (hopefully) worth what they paid for it and means they can get where they want to go safely, conveniently and in comfort. To the transit operator, it represents a source of income. To developers and employers, it offers an opportunity to increase the attractiveness of their location. To the wider community where the transit system operates, it means mobility, access to work, cultural and leisure destinations, reduced congestion along busy travel corridors and a cleaner, greener way of life. But what if that journey is then offered free to the customer? It is a great deal for the rider – we all like free things – but how does the operator recover lost revenue, and will it be able to support an assumed increase in demand and ridership? Finally, what does the community gain from having a new ‘free’ service? This is a global conversation, but one that has been particularly active in the United States, as transit operators of all sizes consider ways to restore ridership to pre-COVID levels. In fact, several were looking at this before the pandemic as a response to demands to boost ridership as evidence to elected officials and outside observers – particularly the anti-transit crowd – of the value in public investment in such services. Ridership is often the only value metric that matters to some, and many operators and advocates here are all too familiar with the “It’s cheaper to give everyone a car than to build a transit system,” canard. That argument is a virus that cannot easily be killed; but it...

CRRC interest in Modertrans?

Poznań’s municipal transport undertaking MPK is seeking options for the sale of shares in tram and bus-building subsidiary Modertrans. MPK holds 84% of Modertans shares, with the remainder owned by the city. The mayor of the Polish regional capital first suggested the sale of Modertrans in 2015, with discussions gaining momentum in 2021. Three manufacturers are reportedly interested in acquiring shares in the company, which has modernised and built new trams for systems across Poland. Two of the offers are from Europe, with the third from China’s CRRC, which has offered to sign a letter of intent regarding capital investment. Established on 31 December 2005, Modertrans began with refurbishment contracts for Poznań’s high-floor trams, subsequently developing its own low-floor designs. Its latest, the Moderus Gamma, has been delivered to Poznań with further orders for Łódź and Wrocław. Revenues in 2020 exceeded PLN100m (EUR22m) and in June 2021 the company presented Poland’s first 100% low-floor, single-section tram, the Moderus Gamma LF 05...
Leipzig, Görlitz and Zwickau join forces for new trams

Leipzig, Görlitz and Zwickau join forces for new trams

The EUR600m contract for the delivery of up to 155 new trams to the German cities of Leipzig, Görlitz and Zwickau was signed with the LEIWAG consortium of HeiterBlick and Kiepe on 15 December. The award follows the launch of the ‘Sachsen Straßenbahn der Zukunft’ (Future Tram) joint procurement in the summer of 2019. The first indicative offers were received in October 2020 and the programme is expected to run until 2030. The EUR600m contract value includes development costs, future options and spare parts. It is estimated that the joint procurement will save up to EUR27m in one-off costs. The consortium has said that two-thirds of the manufacturing and supply of materials for the new trams would be placed in central Germany, with almost 40% in Saxony. With a view to future technologies, the contract includes options for driver assistance systems and HeiterBlick’s under-development hydrogen fuel cell traction package (see TAUT 1001). Leipzig’s LVB has confirmed an order for 25 trams, with options for up to 105 more. These 45m-long, 2.4m-wide versions should replace life-expired NGT8 vehicles (delivered between 1994 and 1998) on the 1458mm-gauge network from 2024. Görlitz will receive eight cars, all 30m single-ended trams, and Zwickau will receive six, where the new low-floor trams will enable replacement of the city’s remaining high-floor Tatra KT4DC cars. This, alongside modernisation of existing vehicles, will provide operator SVZ with a fully-accessible...
Puebla – Cholula tram-train suspended

Puebla – Cholula tram-train suspended

Service on the Puebla – Cholula tram-train (Mexico) was suspended from 1 January 2022 until further notice. The decision follows the expiry of the five-year operations contract for the 17.2km (10.7-mile) line, which is not being renewed due to poor patronage. Enthusiasts gathered for the final trip at 17.41, with 194 passengers on the last service between the Mexican National Railway Museum in Puebla and San Andrés Cholula. A sign was placed on the front of the final tram-train marking the occasion with the legend ‘last trip’. Created at a cost of MXN1.1bn (EUR47.5m), the tram-train service was inaugurated on 23 January 2017 and has struggled to meet patronage expectations. Peak ridership was achieved in 2019 when fares were removed and 161 403 passengers were carried. However, officials say that 1.453m passengers per year are required to maintain a viable service. State Governor Miguel Barbosa has stated that maintenance has become unaffordable as each passenger journey represents a cost of MXN1500 (EUR64.80) against an average ticket revenue of MXN30 (EUR1.30). MXN55.2m (EUR2.38m) was allocated to the tram-train service in the 2021 budget, with MXN4.87m (EUR210 300) for monthly operations and maintenance and MXN260 000 (MXN11 300) in payments to national rail operator Ferrosur for the use of 9.2km (5.7 miles) of its route. The suspension is reportedly temporary as MXN700 000 (EUR30 230) is to be invested in a study to explore cost saving measures. While this is underway, the pair of 38m three-section Vossloh diesel-electric tram-trains, delivered in 2015, have been placed into storage in the depot at Cholula, located next to the railway...

Five-year investment programme for Russia’s regional tramways

The Russian Government has confirmed a five-year RUB100bn (EUR1.17bn) programme of investment in the country’s tramways, to include improvement of transport integration and street lighting projects. The money will be provided to the regions in the form of state loans from 2023 to 2027 and will be supported by private sector investment agreements and other sources. The measure was approved by a Government decree in December, alongside amendments to the rules for future budget loans to separate infrastructure improvements and rolling stock renewal projects. Regions must submit their applications for funding by 1 October, with the Ministry of Transport assuming responsibility for the selection of projects. Confirming the investment schedule on 24 December, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that over a dozen regions have expressed their interest in the programme, adding that the funding would support the purchase of more than 1500 new trams and construction of 700km (435 miles) of new and refurbished tram tracks, as well as the acquistion of 400 new electric buses and installation of 120 charging...