Having had a bleak outlook in the 1970s, the tramway in the Austrian city of Innsbruck is now enjoying modernisation and growth.
In the early 1970s, motorway construction through the Inn Valley threatened the closure of the entire Innsbruck tramway system, including the interurban lines to Fulpmes, Igls and Hall. Most trams in the fleet dated from the beginning of the 20th Century and were at the end of their working lives.
Despite public opposition, route 4 was withdrawn in 1974 to make way for the 1976 winter Olympic village; the future of the remaining four routes looked bleak but, fortunately, a number of German cities were replacing their 1960s-vintage Düwag articulated cars. These were offered for sale at affordable prices and sufficient examples were obtained by Innsbrucker Verkehrsbetriebe (IVB) to replace its ageing trams. They went on to serve the city for more than 30 years until they too reached the point of retirement.
In 2004, the IVB published a concept plan that outlined proposals for the rationalisation and modernisation of the city’s public transport network. The trolleybus system would close and the tramway system be upgraded and expanded over a 15-year period. A committee was formed comprising city officials and IVB management along with representatives from district councils, its mission being to determine optimal routings and destinations for an expanded tramway.
The outcome was an ambitious programme broken down into two main segments; modernisation of the existing infrastructure and procurement of new trams (Phase 1), followed by an expansion of the existing network and the construction of two new tram routes (Phase 2).
Phase 1: System upgrade
An order was placed with Bombardier for 32 low-floor, high capacity Flexity Outlook articulated cars, 24 for operation on urban Routes 1, 3 and interurban 6, and eight for interurban Route STB (Stubaitalbahn). The Düwag cars were sold on for further operation in Poland and Romania as and when the new cars entered service, the
last of the classic cars being withdrawn in July 2009.
The trolleybus system closed in 2007 and apart from a few minor alterations, work on upgrading the tramway infrastructure was complete by the end of 2010, allowing the IVB to focus its attention on the next phase.
Phase 2: Expanding the tramway
Currently, many ÖBB (Österreichische Bundesbahnen – Austrian Federal Railway) commuters travel from outlying areas to the city’s main station and transfer to a tram or bus to complete their journey to work; this can often involve heading part way back in the direction from which they came. To alleviate this inconvenience and to shorten journey times, the following route changes are in the process of being implemented:
• Extension of route 3 further into the eastern and western suburbs.
• A new route, numbered 2, running via the city centre on an east-west axis, will replace buses on the busy trunk route O, formerly served by trolleybuses. This will allow 17 buses to be withdrawn.
• A second new route, numbered 5, also known as the Regionalbahn, will connect
the outlying villages of Völs in the west of the city to Rum in the east. It will run through the central area and be built to Stadtbahn standards.
When the modernisation and expansion programme is completed in 2020, train passengers from outside the urban area will have the option to transfer to route 5 trams at Völs, Hötting, Hauptbahnhof and Rum railway stations. Much of the right-of-way will be segregated (but shared with surviving bus routes), to keep journey times to a minimum. By the end of 2020, route 5 is expected to be running on 15-minute headways. Urban residents too should enjoy the benefits offered by a faster and less stressful means of accessing the central area when using the new routes and extensions to route 3.
Progress to date
In 2005, the tracks in Andreas-Hofer-Strasse and Bürgerstrasse were relaid with greater separation between them to enable the wider Flexity Outlook trams to operate along these thoroughfares. A similar separation specification was subsequently employed with the doubling of the single tracks in Maria-Theresien-Strasse, Salurner Strasse and Brunecker Strasse in readiness for bi-directional operation as stipulated for proposed route changes.
Construction of the westward extension of route 3 as far as Höttinger Au began in 2010 and was followed shortly after by that of an easterly extension in Amras. The latter was completed first and the route extended 300m along Philippine-Welser-Strasse to a stub-end terminus on 26 October 2012. Two months later, on 15 December, route 3 was extended to the west from the Bürgerstrasse junction, along Anichstrasse and across the river Inn via Universitätsbrücke into Höttinger Au and a provisional three-track terminus
at Fischerhäuslweg. Here, terminating trams cross the inbound track to reach a layover-track just beyond the Karwendelbahn railway bridge.
In the central area, the Leipziger Platz stop on route 3 was completely reconstructed in 2013 to incorporate a three-track layout, and extra-long platforms installed both here and at Sillpark to accommodate coupled tramsets.
In 2014-15, single tracks were installed along the separate carriageways in Innrain between Marktplatz and Blasius-Hueber-Strasse (Universitätsbrücke) in readiness
for the inauguration of the new routes. The erection of overhead wiring was completed in autumn 2015 allowing the first test runs to be carried out in the early hours of 6 November. This 330m link will not see regular service until 2018 but will, in the meantime, provide an alternative routing for route 3 cars in the event of a blockage or defect occurring in Anichstrasse.
The following additional works had been completed or were scheduled for completion by the end of 2015. In the west: Construction of the first section of tram/busbaan along Kranebitter Allee between Fischerhäuslweg and Am Giesen; laying of a length of roadway parallel to Kranebitter Allee on the section between Am Giesen and Technikerstrasse for use by private motor vehicles, releasing the space occupied by the old road for the installation of a tram/busbaan; installation of kerbside tracks on the section of Technikerstrasse between Kranebitter Allee and Viktor-Franz-Hess Strasse.
In the east: Installation of double-track alignment along the section of Defreggerstrasse between Pradlerstrasse and Langstrasse.
The next steps
Over the course of winter 2015 and on through 2016, work will be concentrated in a number of areas: In the west, the installation of a tram/busbaan on the section of reclaimed roadway between Fischerhäuslweg and Technikerstrasse; track and overhead construction on the section of Technikerstrasse between Viktor-Franz-Hess Strasse and a provisional terminus by an old peoples’ home in Technik West; track installation and overhead erection on the branch to Peerhofsiedlung.
In the east: Street tramway in Langstrasse and Pembaurstrasse, and along Reichenauerstrasse on the section between Pembaurstrasse and Radetzkystrasse; a tram-only bridge over the river Inn to be constructed alongside Grenobler-Brücke (track and overhead construction will extend into Schützenstrasse, Josef-Kerschbaumer-Strasse and Kajetan-Sweth-Strasse in Olympisches Dorf over the following year); a short section of double-track will be installed in Amraser Strasse between the Pradler Strasse/Roseggerstrasse junction and Leipziger Platz to provide a more direct route for trams operating on route 3. The short length of track in Pradler Strasse will then be removed.
New routes are to be delivered to the following timetable.
December 2017: Route 3 to be provisionally extended from Höttinger
Au to the branches serving Peerhofsiedlung and Technik West.
December 2018: Route 2 will begin operation between Olympisches Dorf and
the Peerhofsiedlung and Technik West branches, displacing buses operating on
route O. From Olympisches Dorf, trams will run via Pradl (Pembaurstrasse – Langstrasse – Defreggerstrasse), Museumstrasse, Burggraben, Innrain and Höttinger Au to the two-branch termini in Hötting West. Route 3 will be cut back to the current terminus at Höttinger Au from the same date.
To provide sufficient capacity in the busy east-west route 5 corridor, the Regionalbahn will operate as a traditional tram service between Olympisches Dorf and Technik West. Sharing the tracks with cars on route 2 between Olympisches Dorf and Museumstrasse, Route 5 cars will turn into Brunecker Strasse and run on those of route 3 via Hauptbahnhof, Maria-Theresien-Strasse and Anichstrasse to Höttinger Au before continuing on to Technik West. The links to Rum und Völs railway stations will be provided by shuttle buses.
December 2020: Opening of the route 5 Regionalbahn extensions to Rum and Völs running over private-right- of-way.
Route STB (Stubaitalbahn)
The Stubaitalbahn interurban – Route STB – connects Innsbruck Hbf with Fulpmes.
It shares tracks with the tramway in the city, moving onto its own dedicated formation for the 18km (11 miles) from Stubaitalbahnhof. Opened in 1904 and modernised over the years since, it is now undergoing further work.
An increase in occurrences of inbound cars being held at Feldeler to await the arrival of late-running outbound cars was resolved following installation of a passing loop and second platform at the Nockhofweg stop. Work began in September 2015 and was completed in October.
A much larger project has stemmed from recent inspections of the Mühlbachbrücke supporting pillars and Mutterer Tunnel linings, which revealed deterioration in the condition of the former and increasing water seepage in the latter. As both structures date back to the opening of the line and given the high cost of restoration and long-term disruption that would ensue during rebuilding, the decision was taken to build a new bridge to bypass both the tunnel and bridge. Construction of the supporting pillars for the new structure should begin in 2016, with completion pencilled in for the following year. The tunnel will then be closed but it is hoped to adapt the old bridge for use as a footpath.
Tenders were issued in July 2015 for 20 new trams, with an order to be placed with the selected manufacturer in November. Delivery of the first car is scheduled for the beginning of 2017, with eight for service on Route 2 and 11 on Route 5.
The specification defines a 28m long, three-section articulated car with 100% low-floor to be of similar design to the current Flexity Outlook cars. In an innovation for Innsbruck, they will be able to operate as coupled sets during busy periods.
A second depot
As the current depot in Pastorstrasse does not have sufficient capacity to house an expanding tram fleet, a site for a new depot has been acquired in Duilestrasse,
some 200m west of the current depot. Contracts for construction of the complex, large enough to hold up to 30 trams on eight tracks, have been signed with work scheduled to start in spring 2016. A short section of double-track will be laid in Pastorstrasse to provide a connection to the system and maintenance facility at Wilten Betriebshof.
Forty years ago this small tramway eluded calls for its abandonment and surprised many observers by surviving beyond the millennium. With a dedicated team and public opinion supporting it, the developments in hand and others further down the line, the trams of
Innsbruck are playing a crucial role at the heart of city’s public transport and their future is now secure.