Words and images by Andrew Thompson
On 1 September the modern tramway in Dijon celebrated its tenth anniversary. Drawing inspiration from small- to medium-sized cities such as Mulhouse and Le Mans which joined the French light rail revolution in the preceding years, this 18km (11.2-mile) two-line network is in many ways typical of the country’s second-generation systems.
From 1895 Dijon had an electric metre-gauge tramway (replacing a horse-drawn service launched in 1888) which reached its zenith by 1930. By 1961 the trams had been replaced by trolleybuses, first introduced in 1950 and superseded themselves by diesel buses in 1966.
The 8.5km (5.3-mile) T1 runs between the main railway station (Gare) and the eastern terminus at Quetigny Centre; 14 other stops are served, including the exhibition centre (Auditorium), university hospital (CHU-Hôpitaux) and the university campus (Erasme, Université). The average distance between stops is around 565m and the end-to-end journey time is approximately 28 minutes; this is seven minutes faster than the previous high-capacity bus service. Outside the city, large parts of the route are laid on grass tracks.
A city full of firsts
As a sign of its excellent network integration, after a decade the dimensions and range of the T1 and T2 tramlines meet local requirements well. In spring 2022, daily ridership was around 95 500, with a roughly 60/40 split in favour of T1 over T2. For comparison; in 2013 this figure was 83 000/day.