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Civilingenjörsprogrammet Samhällsbyggnadsteknik / 2001:303

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Light rail: experiences from Germany, France and Switzerland

Gunnarsson, Björn; Löfgren, Andreas


Samhällsbyggnadsteknik / Trafikteknik

Modern trams, "light rail vehicles" (LRV), have become more and more popular since the 1980ies. To give a definition of "light rail" is not easy. Since all tram systems are different depending on the city they are in. Light rail is usually tram systems that can go on both tram tracks and train tracks.

During the first half of the 20th century trams where common in European cities but disappeared during the 1960’ies. Motor traffic took over and tram tracks were replaced by road. Later, when cities got environmental and congestion problems, several cities choose to reintroduced trams.

This thesis work is an information gathering about modern trams, not only about "light rail". Which also was one of the most important criteria’s when choosing case study cities. Saarbrucken and Karlsruhe have typical LR systems, Mannheim has an upgraded tram system, and Strasbourg has a completely new trams system, finally Zurich who has a more old fashion tram system. The fact that all cities have tram systems so unlike the other ones means that most possible information could be gathered.

Saarbrucken has had trams since 1890 but they were removed on behalf to motor traffic. In the early 1990ies a decision were made to build a new tram system with a LR system. Some lines are still under construction.

Mannheim has had trams since the end of 19th century and has modernised the system with time. They have recently bought new trams and have also rebuilt the tram stops.

Zurich has an old but huge tram system and will soon have to exchange their vehicle fleet. In Zurich trams and motor vehicles use the same space have therefore developed an efficient traffic system. This has increased the travel speed for trams.

Strasbourg built a completely new tram system in the 1980ies. The city used a lot of resources to make the tram a human friendly transport by special trams, stops and lots of threes along tram routes.

Karlsruhe was the first city in the world that introduced LR. They have since the start extended their LR system not only within the city but also to the whole region. Karlsruhe had an old tram system in the city, which were used together with train tracks. (In Saarbrucken they had to build tracks in the city.)

One of the most important reasons to why many cities have reintroduced trams is the environmental advantage. In a city there is a huge demand of transportation, if everyone would travel with cars congestion and pollution would be an extensive problem. With buses and trams you will get both lower congestion and pollution. The energy it takes to run trams is much less per personal kilometres compared with a car, which makes it a more environmental friendly alternative. The energy used by a tram comes from electricity which better than petrol and reduces pollution. Trams are a very space efficient transportation mode, which is important since land often is in shortage in cities. An environmental problem that is common in cities is noise pollutions. Tram produce less noise than cars and the noise level becomes even lower if grass is planted between the tracks.

Modern trams have proven to be a safe transportation mode in the city, with low accident rates both for passages and other traffic groups. The accident types that is most common for trams are collision between trams and cars. These are especially common in cities where cars and trams share the same space. On the other hand these collisions are rare in cities with separated space like in Saarbrucken. On the place where most accidents occur are around the tram stops. There are different designs of tram stops and they are more or less safe. Trams are generally safe and only few accidents result in lethal outcome.

ISSN 1402-1617 / ISRN LTU-EX--01/303--SE / NR 2001:303

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