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Düsseldorf opens last tram subway

Wehrhahn tunnel opens for service after eight years of work; 53 000 passengers expected per day.

After over eight years of construction work, the EUR843.6m, 3.4km (2.1-mile) Wehrhahn tram subway under Düsseldorf city centre, with a northern ramp at Am Wehrhahn and a southern ramp at Elisabethstrasse near Bilk S-Bhf, was formally inaugurated on 21 February. It is expected to carry more than 53 000 passengers every day.
Mayor Thomas Geisel and Nordrhein-Westfalen transport minister Michael Groscheck were at Heinrich-Heine-Allee to cut the ribbon. The last surface trams through the Altstadt on lines 701, 703, 706, 712, 713 and 715 ran on 17 February. Museum trams were offering public rides from 10.00 to 17.00, using five-window set 583+797, KSW set 14+332, Aufbau set 379+643, Grossraum set 114+1629, articulated Düwag six-axle plus trailer sets 2432+1680 and 2501+1689,and Düwag eight-axle cars 2663 and 2965.
The subway opening ceremony at 12.30 on 20 February featured six simultaneous departures on new lines U71, U72, U73 and U83, from the underground stations Kirchplatz, Graf-Adolf-Platz, Heinrich-Heine-Allee, Schadowstrasse and Pempelforter Strasse, with the public able to use the resulting shuttle services for free until 22.00, carrying 100 000 passengers.
Regular service on the new lines began on 21 February using Siemens NF8U trams 3301-76: U71, Rath S-Bhf – Benrath Betriebshof; U72, Ratingen-Mitte – Volmerswerth; U73, Gerresheim S-Bhf – Universität Ost/Botanischer Garten; U83, Gerresheim-Krankenhaus – Benrath Betriebshof.
Tram services 703, 712, 713 and 719 were withdrawn.
Service changes were: 701, Rath S-Bhf – Am Steinberg; 704, Derendorf Nord – Hbf – Universität Ost/Botanischer Garten; 705, Eller – Spichernplatz – Unterrath; 706, Am Steinberg – Hamm S-Bhf; 707, Unterrath S-Bhf – Hbf – Medienhafen; 708, Landtag/Polizeipräsidium – Hbf – Heinrichstrasse; 709, Gerresheim Krankenhaus – Hbf – Neuss.
Tram subway construction started in Düsseldorf in 1973, following the perceived wisdom of the time that highway traffic and tram traffic should be separated. The first short section of subway opened on 4 October 1981, and major subway sections were placed in service in 1988, 1993 and 2002, reaching a total of 6.9km (4.3 miles).
Authorisation of the Wehrhahn line subway came in 1999 and construction started in November 2007, but within a few years it was realised that burying public transport was not the best answer to the city’s traffic problems, and no further subways will be built.
The subway is more expensive to build, maintain and operate, with its elaborate manned stations. Surface tramways are believed to be more visible and attractive, and can be largely separated from road traffic, which is no longer seen as vital for the city’s economic prosperity.