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New tramways for 2017

The eastern terminus of Chengdu’s first modern tramline in Xinjin district; a three-section low-floor vehicle from local manufacturer Xinzhu Corporation undertakes test runs on 30 September 2016. (Image credit: Bernhard Kußmagk)

The surge in new tramway openings, which we have recorded annually for the last seven years, is a worldwide trend; the issues of urban congestion and pollution have run alongside the need for investment in fixed infrastructure to drive growth following the global economic recession at the start of the decade. Indeed, this surge is bringing new systems to areas of the world that have traditionally relied on buses to provide city transit, but now realise that for economic and environmental reasons tramways are the mode for the future.
Of course there are large cities where extreme population growth and the resulting passenger flows are such that only a full metro will cope, but the huge cost of tunnelling makes a reserved track surface tramway offering substantial capacity, at a lower price, very attractive for many
smaller urban areas.
A year ago, looking ahead at 2016, we predicted several new openings that were not achieved by 31 December. There is no doubt that while the construction of infrastructure and the delivery of rolling stock can be achieved using international experience, bringing the two together to produce a passenger-carrying system offers up challenges that are as much to do with local bureaucracy as for technical reasons.
From Algeria to China these challenges have delayed openings by some months, but success is now likely to be achieved in 2017. Other systems remain on the list that have been delayed even longer, largely due to constrained national and local finances – it is hoped that systems such as those in Cádiz and Granada can finally serve passengers in the next 12 months.
The cities that did achieve passenger service in 2016 are Rio de Janeiro and Santos (Brazil); Qingdao (China); Kaohsiung (Taiwan); and Cincinnati, Kansas City and Washington, DC (USA). Yangon in Myanmar (Burma) achieved the dubious distinction of opening a line on 10 January and closing it on 1 July (this was a demonstration project using secondhand trams from Japan on dock railway tracks). It has also been established that tramway operation in Huai’an, China, began on 28 December 2015 and initial reports suggest that the 20.3km (12.6-mile) line, which runs entirely away from the overhead between Huai’an Gymnasium and South Gate, has been a success.
There was one closure in 2016, the Toshkent system in Uzbekistan, victim of an old-fashioned mayoral decision. However, the newest trams have been transferred across the country to Samarkand for a new system. So to 2017… and the new year was still in its first month when Mexico’s Puebla tram-train operation was inaugurated (see News).
These pages detail those new systems that are expected still to open this year.

Extension projects

Building completely new tramways in Europe is much reduced compared with other parts of the world, though there are still some French schemes to come. However, there is plenty of work on extensions, including Manchester’s Second City Crossing (UK). This opened on the 26 February, increasing capacity and reducing bottlenecks in the city that have come about due to the system’s rapid expansion over the past few years.
Another significant opening this month is the new international tramway linking the French city of Strasbourg and the German town of Kehl, via a new bridge across the River Rhine.
Elsewhere, Antwerpen’s metre-gauge tramway will be extended north of the city to a new park-and-ride, while the Austrian city of Innsbruck will extend its tramway west and east of the city centre. Austria’s smallest tramway, at Gmunden, will be joined up with the Vorchdorf – Gmunden light railway on new tracks through the town centre.
In Germany, Freiburg-im-Breisgau will complete its new extension to Messe, while Heidelberg’s Bahnstadt extension should be ready to open in December. Bergen’s trams will reach the airport, the latest stage in this Norwegian city’s ambitious light rail plans. In Switzerland, Basel’s trams will start another international journey, to St Louis in France, while the Italian city of Firenze (Florence) will open its second tramline.
In the USA, Charlotte will extend its Blue line light rail to the university while in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro will open further sections of its VLT Porto Maravilha tramway. After an extensive test period, Kaohsiung in Taiwan will complete phase 1 of its new tramway.

The rest of the world…


Last year we predicted two tramways opening in this north African nation in 2016, but neither were achieved. We are confident they will deliver passenger service in 2017, however, and possibly be joined by a third.
Ouargla is a Berber city and a provincial capital in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria, with an urban population approaching 200 000. Temperatures can reach 43°C in the summer. A EUR310m, 12.6km (7.8-mile) tramline from El Ksar to Hai Nasr via the railway and bus stations, built by a Spanish consortium, is designed to carry 14 000 passengers/hour at peaks. A fleet of 23 seven-section 44m Citadis trams are being built by Alstom’s CITAL joint venture factory in Annaba, with the first arriving in December 2016.Passenger service is expected to start in the third quarter of 2017.
Mostaganem is an historic port city on the Mediterranean coast in north-west Algeria with a population around 245 000. Two tramlines are under construction, with the first, a 12.2km (7.6-mile) link from Kharouba (University) in the north-east to Salamandre in the south-west (Lycée Oukraf Mohammed). Line 2 will be a 2km (1.2-mile) branch to the SNFT station. Corsan Isolux/Alstom were awarded a EUR240m contract to build and equip the system in August 2013 and the CITAL factory in Annaba is supplying 25 44m Citadis trams. Passenger service is likely to be achieved in December.
The agricultural and university city of Sidi Bel Abbés can be found 120km (74.5 miles) inland in north-west Algeria, 70km (43.5 miles) south of Oran, with a population of around 215 000. A 17.8km (11-mile) tramline is being built by Yapi Merkezi to link Gare du Nord with a new railway station for high-speed services and Cité 20 Août via the university. The first of 34 Citadis 402 44m trams built at Annaba was delivered in July 2016 and testing is in full swing. It is expected to launch passenger service in April 2017.
Since 2011 Algeria has opened new tramways in Algiers, Constantine and Oran. Lines are also under construction in Annaba, Batna and Sétif.


Work on the stalled tramway project in the city of Cuiabá could resume this Spring, following legal disputes and a funding shortfall for the new line that was originally planned to carry passengers attending 2014 World Cup football matches. It is reported that the works could be finished in mid-2019 for an opening later that year.


A sort of tramway mania amongst Chinese cities was overshadowed in 2016 by new metros and metro extensions, with only one new tramway inaugurated. However, 2017 promises better, with several long-planned schemes coming to fruition.
The capital, Beijing, ordered 31 five-section 32m low-floor trams from CNR Dalian in 2014, to be built under licence from AnsaldoBreda, for a 9.4km (5.8-mile) line in the Fragrant Hills area of the western suburbs. Since then CNR has been merged into the CRRC combine, while AnsaldoBreda was taken over by Hitachi to become Hitachi Rail Italy.
The planned use of the Ansaldo STS Tramwave surface contact system may be being re-evaluated, as no further news of the project has been issued.
Chengdu, famous for its panda sanctuary, is a city where explosive population growth has led to huge expansion of the metro system. Although two tramlines totalling 39.4km (24.5 miles) are under construction, reports are frustratingly vague. The city achieved more publicity for the inauguration of a trial suspended monorail line in 2016.
Although test running began on the first 9.7km (six-mile) section of the Xinjin line in early 2016, the full line isn’t due to open until later this year or possibly even early in 2018. Construction on a second 27.7km (17.2-mile) line began in September 2016, with an additional branch adding 11.6km (7.2 miles). This is also due to open in 2018, operated by a fleet of five-section low-floor trams.
We have already illustrated trial tramway operation in Mengzi City (TAUT 945) where a four-line tramway totalling 62km (38.5 miles) is under construction. Regular passenger service will start in 2017.
Shanghai may have the world’s largest metro, but tramlines are needed to act as feeders to suburban metro stations; the 15.7km (9.8-mile) tramline T1 and the 15.1km (9.4-mile) line T2 are expected to carry passengers in 2017. T1 runs east–west from Xinqiao to Chenta Rd, with T2 branching off to reach Songjiang University Town metro (line 9). Alstom has delivered about half of the 30 five-section double-ended 33m Citadis ordered from its Chinese joint venture with Shanghai Rail Traffic Equipment Development Company and is testing on T2.
Tramway operation in Shenzhen (just across the border from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) is expected to start in the first quarter of 2017 on an 11.5km (7.1-mile) north–south line linking Qinghu metro station on line 4 with Guanlan Strategic New Industries Park. A 3.8km (2.4-mile) branch will form line 2.
This is being carried out as a 20-year PPP project by Shenzhen Metro Group and China Railway Construction Investment Corporation at a cost of CNY1.38bn (EUR190m).
In the city of Wuhan a 16.8km (10.4-mile) tramway has been built as a feeder to metro line 3 at Chelun Square. The first 36m five-section 100% low-floor tram from an order for 21 was delivered by CRRC Zhuzhou on 31 May 2016, so passenger service should start in the first quarter of 2017. The fitting of supercapacitors on the trams means that most of the line does not have to be equipped with overhead. Siemens supplied the electrical equipment.


This year will see the inauguration of Denmark’s first new tramway of the modern era in the city of Aarhus, Jutland (neatly coinciding with its European Capital of Culture designation).
The project combines a 12km (7.5-mile) traditional low-floor tramway on city streets with light rail extensions over existing railway lines linking the city with Odder and Grenaa. Because of this two types of rolling stock were ordered from Stadler, the 32.4m five-section Variobahn for the tramway (14 cars) and the 39.2m three-section Tango tram-train for light rail operation (12 cars). The Variobahn come from Stadler Pankow (Berlin) and the Tango from the plant at Altenrhein
in Switzerland.
The DKK2.4bn (EUR322m) project cost is being funded by the city (47.2%), the state (47%) and the region (5.8%). A limited service will start in May on the tramway between Aarhus Skejby (university) and Lisbjergskolen, followed in August by tram-train operation on the Odderbanan.
Service on the Grenaabanan will follow in October, with full operation of the whole system by the end of the year.


The city of Cuenca is building an 11km (6.8-mile) tramway which includes 4km (2.5 miles) using the Alstom APS surface contact system throughout the city centre, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Alstom has supplied 14 32m 100% low-floor Citadis trams. With dynamic testing in progress since October 2015, service was supposed to be inaugurated in July 2016, but work in the old town area was suspended in November following a petition from business owners along the route. Construction work resumed in January 2016, but is still in progress, so no opening date is known.


The first part of the new tramway being built in the capital city, Luxembourg, will be operational in the third quarter of 2017 according to present plans. This will be the outer end of the planned line, from Luxexpo to Pont Rouge (Hamilius) on the Kirchberg plateau north of the city, running on a north-eastern alignment along Avenue John F. Kennedy and totalling 6.4km (four miles). Extensions will then follow east from Luxexpo exhibition and conference centre to Findel (international) airport, and south from Pont Rouge to the western bank of the Alzette river to Cloche d’Or.
The full line into the city via Gare Centrale is expected to be open in 2018, with the route from Cloche d’Or into the city centre to the international Airport expected to follow in 2021 – giving a total route mileage of 16.2km (ten miles). This latter route will connect with the city’s main railway station with a 3.6km (2.2-mile) catenary-free section between there and Pont Rouge.
The first section, which will be worked by nine trams, includes the rail interchange at Pfaffenthal-Kirchberg, though the railway station here will not open until the timetable change in December 2017. The EUR565m project will have a route length of 16km (ten miles) and be worked by 32 CAF-built Urbos 45.4m seven-section trams. The vehicles, from a concept by renowned tram designer Avant Première, are equipped with the ACR ultracapacitor power supply system to permit operation without overhead in the historic city centre. When the concept was originally unveiled to the general public in January 2016, more than 30 000 people were allowed to have their say on the final design: grab bars, seat coverings and floor finishes were therefore all specified according to public opinion.
The rolling stock contract is worth EUR83m, with the entire project estimated at EUR345.8m; the first tram should arrive in February.


Although the city of Doha is building its colossal metro and the Lusail LRT system, the first tramway in the Qatari capital will be an 11.5km (7.1-mile) line in the campus of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which will become a car-free zone.
The project was awarded as a USD412m turnkey contract to Siemens, which is supplying 19 three-section 100% low-floor 27m Avenio trams with Sitras HES (Hybrid Energy Storage) units to permit catenary-free operation. The system also claims a reduction of up to 80 tonnes of CO2 over traditional catenary operation thanks to its energy efficiency.
The new trams are designed with boosted air conditioning for extreme heat and humidity and have undertaken extensive testing in the Rail Tec Arsenal facility in Wien (Vienna). Opening was originally planned for September 2015, but put back by a year. This new deadline was not achieved due to recruitment and training difficulties, and passengers are now expected to be carried in the second or third quarter of 2017.


The two Spanish tramways that should open in 2017 have both been listed in previous years, but although essentially complete, have yet to carry passengers due to funding constraints and political delays.
In Cádiz the tram-train project dates from 2008 and involves 10.3km (6.4 miles) of shared track with RENFE trains from the city station to La Ardila, then 13.7km (8.5 miles) of new tramway through San Fernando to La Chiclana. CAF has delivered seven dual-voltage, 1668mm-gauge 38.1m three-section articulated cars. Different door heights accommodate the railway platforms and street stops. The service will be operated by RENFE and it is hoped to carry passengers in the second quarter of 2017. The latest delay was to enable a contract to be awarded to Thales for modification of security and communication systems on the shared section of line.
In the province of Andalucia, the city of Granada started building a 15.9km (9.9-mile) EUR502m north–south tramline from Albolote to Armilla ten years ago. There are three subway stations in the city centre. There was a long hiatus in works due to Spain’s economic crisis, but eventually the EU came up with an additional EUR262m. It is now hoped that passenger service will start in late March.
Testing of the 15 CAF five-section 32m Urbos 100% low-floor trams began in 2014; all use its ACR system to permit operation without an overhead power supply, which will be a feature on four sections of the line. An operating contract has been awarded to the Avanza group.


The Green Mountain Line tramway project is designed to serve the Danhai New Township in the New Taipei region, which surrounds the island’s capital. Initially, a 9.7km (six-mile) line (4.5km/2.8 miles on elevated alignment) costing NTD9.7bn (EUR289m) has been built to link Hongshulin station on Taipei metro’s Tamsui line with the Danhai district, where rapid population growth is expected. A second line is planned for completion in 2024.
The Taiwanese Government is anxious that tramway expertise should be developed locally through technology transfer, and therefore retained Voith Engineering Services to design a five-section 34.5m low-floor car that could be built by Taiwan Rolling Stock Company. The first of 15 double-ended cars was delivered on 27 December 2016. After commissioning and training takes place, it is hoped to start trial operation in August.


The city of Izmir (Turkey’s third largest) has had a light rail system since 2000 with ADtranz (now Bombardier) vehicles of the type developed for Istanbul. However, over the years, as traffic has grown, this fully-segregated line has become more like a metro. Funding for additional rolling stock will enable trains and platforms to be lengthened.
In 2014 the city announced a EUR211m project to build two tramlines to serve the districts of Konak and Karsiyaka, located each side of the bay on which the city sits, and linked by ferry. The Konak line will be 9.7km (six miles) long and the Karsiyaka line 16.6km (10.3 miles); 38 five-section low-floor 32m trams were ordered from Korean manufacturer Hyundai Rotem, but with local assembly at the Adapazari railway workshops. Following delivery of the first cars, test running on the Karsiyaka line started in December 2016 and it is hoped to start carrying passengers in November 2017.
Another city with a similar name but different characteristics is Izmit, about 100km (62 miles) north of Istanbul, with a population of just over 300 000. There a 7.2km (4.5-mile) east–west tramline has been built linking Seka ferry terminal and Otogar bus station via the railway station. It will be worked by 12 Durmazlar Silkworm 100% low-floor 28.3m double-ended trams, and it is hoped to carry passengers in the third quarter of 2017. Izmit is twinned with Kassel in Germany.


Opening of the Woodward Avenue tramline in the Midwest city of Detroit has been announced for 12 May. The 5.3km (3.3-mile) line is part of the city’s attempt to regenerate itself after many major automakers scaled back their huge factories in and around the city, and the subsequent troubled period that saw the local council enter bankruptcy.
It is unusual in being built by private investors, albeit with federal funding of USD37.2m towards the USD142m cost. M-1 Rail is the private company that has built the line, to be known as QLINE after Quicken Loans purchased the naming rights. About 40% of the line will be equipped with overhead wire; elsewhere trams will run on battery power. After a short dalliance with Czech company Inekon, a definitive order was placed with Brookville Equipment Corporation for six three-section 20m 70% low-floor Liberty trams.
The last of Detroit’s previous trams, a PCC, was numbered 286, so the new cars carry fleet numbers 287-92. The first trial run was made on 13 December 2016, the first time Woodward Avenue had seen a tram since 1956.
The other new tramway operation in the US starting in 2017 is the 3.5km (2.2-mile) heritage tramway known as the Delmar Loop Trolley in the city of St Louis. Serving the museum district, the line offers interchange with the MetroLink light rail at Forest park-DeBalviere and Delmar Loop stations. A federal grant of USD25m was secured towards the USD51m project cost. After plans to use St Louis-type Peter Witt bogie trams refurbished by GOMACO were abandoned, the line will be operated by an ex-Seattle, ex-Melbourne W2 tram (512) and two ex-Portland GOMACO-built Brill replica cars (511-2). The fleet number clash remains to be resolved.
The city of St Louis has two more ex-Seattle cars in store (482 and 518), but no funds to refurbish them yet. The line is single-track with passing loops; initially a 20-minute service will be provided 11.00-19.00 Monday-Thursday and 11.00-24.00 on Friday/Saturday.


One of the most surprising tramway stories of 2016 was the decision by the city of Samarkand to create an 8km (five-mile) tramline connecting the railway station and Sat-Tepo using grassed median strips. Despite not being decided until October 2016, the line is predicted to open in the second quarter of 2017. A factor which makes this likely is the transfer of eight 2011-built Pragoimex Vario LF bogie trams from the capital Toshkent, where the mayor decided to end tram operation in May 2016.
Samarkand, which has a population of 500 000 and is twinned with the Turkish tram city of Ekisehir, previously operated trams from 1947 to 1973. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the current scheme is the personal initiative of Acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.