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Next generation tramways: Luxembourg

Luxembourg’s new tramway serves the major European and commercial institutions in the city centre and once complete will also serve the country’s international airport. Image courtesy of Luxtram.

Luxembourg is a major banking and financial centre and the home to European institutions such as the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank, the European Court of Auditors and the secretariat of the European Parliament. Although the population of the capital of the world’s only Grand Duchy may number just 120 000, a typical weekday will see the same number again travel in from the neighbouring countries of France, Germany and Belgium.

In recent years, bus corridors in the city have reached capacity and caused significant traffic congestion. This led the local authorities to launch a programme to create a tramline that will form the ‘spine’ of an integrated transport network. From approval to implementation, the introduction of the city’s tramline has taken less than four years, with financing agreed in June 2014 and the first rails laid in July 2016.

Meeting tight deadlines

On 10 December 2017, Luxembourgers welcomed the inauguration of the new tram service. The date for commissioning the first 4km (2.5-mile) section was the initial bold challenge set by Luxtram, the joint-stock company in charge of implementing and operating the tramway, when it launched its studies in February 2015. This challenge was met, to the satisfaction of the Luxembourg State and the City of Luxembourg, Luxtram’s two shareholders. Initial passenger reaction was also very positive; the stylish new service was heralded as a major addition to the city’s landscape.

The tram now runs from 04.42 each weekday, utilising a fleet of nine 45m, 2.65m-wide seven-section CAF Urbos low-floor vehicles that can accommodate up to 420 passengers. Each is equipped with eight double-leaf doors on each side and can be lengthened to 55m if required in the future, increasing their capacity by a further 100 passengers.  On May 2018, Luxtram confirmed the delivery of the full fleet, allowing them to operate the entire line from Findel airport to La Cloche d’Or, with a total of 33 trams. Line speeds are capped at 50km/h (31mph) in the city and the average commercial speed is 22km/h (14mph).

This first section comprised eight stops on Avenue J. F. Kennedy, connecting the Luxexpo convention centre to Pafendall – Rout Bréck (Pont Rouge), providing services across the Alzette valley which separates Kirchberg in the north-east from the city centre. The fleet is stabled at a new depot and maintenance facility located near the current northern terminus at Luxexpo that also houses the line’s control room and Luxtram’s headquarters. This 33 000m2 site features a 1km (0.6-mile) test track, eight storage tracks and three roads.

On 27 July 2018, section A was completed with the inauguration of three new stops: Theater, Faïencerie and Stäreplaz/Etoile. Now 6km (3.7 miles) long, the line has 11 stops, crosses the Pont Rouge, passes between the Glacis Square and the Grand Théâtre, and runs along Allée Scheffer before reaching Place de l’Étoile. This includes thee interchanges: Luxexpo and Stàreplaz/Etoile for buses and Pfaffenthal/Kirchberg for both buses and trains.

Looking forward to the next phase

The second section is to be commissioned in 2020. The line will reach the Gare Centrale (central station), alongside three additional stops serving the Hamilius district and Avenue de la Liberté, the main thoroughfare between the railway station and the city’s historic centre. Compared to the current trip from Gare Centrale to Kirchberg by bus, the travel time for the return journey will be shortened by at least 42 minutes. In order to achieve these time savings, Luxtram runs entirely on segregated track.

In 2021, the tramline will connect the Bonnevoie district and two new stations. Extensions will then reach Luxembourg Airport and stretch for the full extent from north to south, connecting the future national football stadium in Cloche d’Or.
At this time it will form a true multi-modal route, providing links with municipal and regional transport interchanges as well as the city’s funicular at Pfaffenthal-Pont Rouge (a short installation that opened in December 2017 and takes just over a minute to cover the 200m distance between main line rail services and Luxtram).

Once T1 is completed, it is estimated that around 2200 bus movements will be removed from the city centre. The line will pass through the heart of the conurbation, covering a total length of 16.2km (ten miles), with 24 stops – including ten interchanges – at an average spacing of 500m.

Project management

Egis has led the design and construction consortium since 2015, alongside subsidiary Atelier Villes & Paysages, with Luxembourg-based companies Luxplan, Paul Wurth Geprolux, Beng architectes associés, and Felgen.

The consortium is providing design, procurement and construction supervision, including the preparation and award of works contracts; monitoring and acceptance of the works, including the testing phase and organisation; planning and co-ordination, as well as safety aspects. This scope includes façade-to-façade redevelopment in the city centre and the depot – another design and construction supervisor was appointed for the building itself.

Egis also manages the technical interfaces between rolling stock supplier CAF, the depot design architect, the city’s technical department and the public civil engineering department.

Particular attention is required in the city centre, with the creation of a 3.6km (2.2-mile) wire-free section that uses ground-level charging points at each stop to recharge trams that feature CAF’s Greentech hybrid battery/supercapacitor system. The first section used overhead wires to supply the required 750V dc traction power; overhead will also be installed for the section between the main station and Cloche d’Or.

Planning for further lines to Hollerich, the town of Mamer and the flourishing business district of Leudelange are underway.

A tramway packed with innovation

The sections completed to date feature several design innovations that have garnered international awards, from their design to the line’s commissioning. These include:

Ground-level power supply:
Egis was in charge of the the design and construction supervision of civil works at the stops to install the third rail used for charging, the 750V dc power supply system and the interfaces with SCIE (Système de Captation Inférieur d’Énergie) electrical cabinets.

Anti-vibration system (6Hz):

The rails on Pont Rouge are encased in a rubber system able to absorb deformation of the metal structure and vibrations resulting from tram operation.

High vibration-reduction (4Hz) rails are used near the theatre and when in direct contact with the upper slab of an underground car park. This involved the creation of a levelling slab anchored to the car park’s upper slab and installation of tracks on Grundey spring-mounted anti-vibration devices, with reinforcements in the foundations and the second-stage concrete.

All maps and images courtesy of Luxtram. With grateful thanks to Fanny Rubigny and Egis’ project managers for their assistance with this article.

Article appeared originally in TAUT 982 (October 2019).