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The Vital Link To Fordon

In January 2016 the north-eastern Bydgoszcz district of Fordon – home to 80 000 residents – realised a century-old ambition of a tram link into the city, fulfilling one of the biggest tramway investments in modern Poland. Witold Urbanowicz reports.

The Bydgoszcz district of Fordon has dreamt of a tramway connection for over a century. The first mentions of such a link appeared as early as 1900 in a contract signed between the city and a private entrepreneur; ultimately, however, only a line to Skrzetusko was built. The topic arose again in 1949 in planning concepts presented by municipal transport operator Miejskie Zakłady Komunikacyjne w Bydgoszczy (MZK) but again was unfulfilled.
The need for a reliable transport link attained greater importance after Fordon formally became part of Bydgoszcz in 1973. By the end of the decade construction began on a large housing settlement, soon attracting 70 000 people and bringing with it a plan for an express tramline and urban railway connections. Due to constrained economic considerations that investment, despite the district’s rapid development, didn’t come to fruition with only reserved lanes serving as a reminder. Lampposts designed to carry overhead lines were even mounted along part of the corridor, although these didn’t survive to the modern tramway programme.

Bydgoszcz is a well-known tramway city. Until recently trams served most districts, except the largest, Fordon, where the population is still growing. Fordon is 9-10km (5.5-6 miles) away from the city’s centre and is isolated by urban forests. Until the arrival of the new tramline, journeys were based on several bus routes and changes at Wycigowa tramway loop, says Witold Dębicki, the head of the Tramwaj Fordon company established to construct the new route. In 2007 an ‘A+T’ system was introduced to allow passengers to ride and interchange on a single ticket.

More than just a new tramline
The opportunity to construct a tramline along Lewiskiego, Akademicka and Andersa Streets appeared again after Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and cohesion funds became available. In 2009 Tramwaj Fordon was established and design works began shortly afterwards; the PLN290m (EUR66m) contract with a consortium led by locally-based Gotowski was signed in October 2013.

The aim of the new route is to increase the share of public transport and is part of the BiT-City project – a combination of various transport projects carried out by Bydgoszcz, Toru, Solec Kujawski and voivodship authorities that will transform links across the entire metropolitan area, Dębicki explained.

The scale of the new line is impressive, with nearly 10km (six miles) of double-track alignment, 13 stops and three new loops. The previous terminus at Wycigowa will act as an emergency loop, as will the one at Korfantego (around 6km/3.7 miles) before the route’s end. Another loop is located at Niepodległoci, 2km (1.2 miles) before the final terminus at Łosko, where a small depot has been established with seven stabling tracks, maintenance and administrative buildings. Part of the project also includes a 545m-long viaduct over existing railway tracks, with a large glazed interchange located over the relocated platforms of Bydgoszcz Wschód railway station.
Tramway construction also offered an opportunity to rebuild the highway network: Akademicka Street gained a second carriageway between Jasiniecka and Igrzyskowa and some sections of Andersa Street and its intersections were modernised. On the adjacent streets four roundabouts were constructed and Orlt Lwowskich and Andersa Streets were extended to Andersa and Geodetów Streets respectively.

Commissioning and launch of the line
The contractor handed the new line over for commissioning on 16 November 2015, with the intention that operations would begin by the start of the new year. However, those plans were deferred by delays to deliveries of the new five-section Swing trams from PESA – Tramwaj Fordon has ordered a total of 12 vehicles of this type. The manufacturer, based in Bydgoszcz, has already supplied its home city with two low-floor trams of the type, which have radically changed the image of the city’s service.

PESA had an extremely busy period towards the end of 2015, associated with the accumulation of orders from other EU projects which had to be processed and settled by the end of the year. As such, the trams were conditionally commissioned by the end of 2015, allowing the preservation of EU funding for the Fordon project.

Finally, the launch date was set for Saturday 16 January with the first tram departing Łosko terminus at 04.38 and an official opening ceremony that took place at midday. New trams satisfy half of the demand on the new route, with other services served by the existing Konstal 805N trams dating from the 1980s and ’90s (all services are operated by MZK). Four lines serve the Fordon routes: Łosko terminus is connected with lines 3 and 5, while lines 7 and 10 terminate at Niepodległoci. Unfortunately, Bydgoszcz is facing a few issues with the implementation of the new timetables as trams can catch delays on intersections and at traffic lights.

What next for the network?
Bydgoszcz’s further tramway plans for the new EU financing perspective 2014-20 are more modest. Two short connecting lines are to be constructed, with a larger emphasis on renewing the fleet and modernisation of existing infrastructure.

One new route will be laid on Kujawska Street, connecting Bernardyskie and Kujawskie roundabouts. The existing loop at Karpacka (Rondo Kujawskie) will be closed, but the terminus at Magnuszewska will be expanded; part of this project includes the delivery of 15 new trams with an aim for completion by the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019.

At Kujawskie roundabout points will be installed and provision made for a new route on Solskiego, Piękna, Szubiska and Kruszwicka Streets to Grunwaldzkie. This project is currently on the reserve list, although it is another long-awaited investment. It is worth mentioning that in 1979-80 standard-gauge tracks were already laid on Szubiskiego Street, although after 1983 this route was dismantled as it was decided to retain the metre-gauge configuration – the concrete sleepers made regauging on the new route impossible.

Another new route, to be constructed between 2016 and 2018, will connect Fordoska and Toruska Streets, with a new bridge over the Brda River; this new connection is planned either in the axis of Perłowa steet, or beside the existing Kazimierza Wielkiego bridge. Overall, in the new EU Financing Perspective around 2.7km (1.7 miles) of new track will be built and 25 new trams will be delivered. The city also plans to modernise five or six cars of its existing Konstal fleet per year.