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Hardbrücke tram link project – vital for mobility growth

Posted: 24 October 2014 | Oliver Weder – Project Manager in the Infrastructure Division of VBZ

Zurich’s Municipal Transport Company – VBZ (Verkehrsbetriebe Zurich) – has a network development strategy known as ‘2030’ and has previously released information to express how the strategy intends to meet the growing demand for public transport1. The most important medium-term element of this strategy is to complement the radial tram network with tangential lines. The Hardbrücke tram link is needed in order to accomplish this between the two city districts separated by the large SBB railway track area and the River Limmat. This will involve the retrofitting of a tram track on a bridge built originally for road traffic. The project has the unanimous support of experts, with the parliaments of both the City of Zurich and the Canton of Zurich overwhelmingly welcoming it. Now, however, a legislative referendum has been instigated by the strongly supported right-wing Swiss People’s Party, ensuring that the citizens of the Canton of Zurich have to vote on the project. Although scarcely anyone has any doubt as to a vote in favour at the ballot box, a ‘no’ vote would well and truly put a stranglehold on the development of public transport. The overarching goals of the cities initiative. i.e. a 10% increase in the modal split share of public transport and non-motorised transport within 10 years, and the ‘2000-watt society’ would vanish into the very distant future. In the run-up to the voting date, Oliver Weder – Project Manager in the Infrastructure Division of VBZ – explains how the transport company is now putting all its endeavours into campaigning in favour of the project…

Hardbrücke tram link

In order to get the public transport in the area of Zurich-West running even more smoothly and obtain the full benefit of the planned modal split between motorised private transport and public transport, tram line 8 is to be extended from the current terminus at Hardplatz as far as Werdhölzli (the current terminus for line 17) in a second expansion phase. This will improve the direct connection to Hardbrücke Station for the district, along with a new tram stop on the bridge. Both the catchment area along Limmatstrasse and the sites currently under construction along Hohlstrasse (including the new Police and Justice Centre and the site of the former goods station) will experience a marked improvement in service availability and quality. Although the Hardbrücke tram link is only a short new section, its major network effect means that it is of vital importance for the development of VBZ services and the next big step in the growth in mobility for a better quality of life in the City of Zurich.

Although the Hardbrücke tram link is situated entirely within the municipal area, the Canton also has a big interest in implementing it..On the one hand, the Canton of Zurich is responsible for a functioning overall transport system and for public transport (Zürcher Verkehrsverbund, ZVV), on the other hand, with the development of the Zurich-West and goods station areas, it will be possible to generate economic benefits that in turn strengthen Zurich’s position as a business location.

In the future, line 8 will be intelligently networked because it will directly link many Zurich hotspots. For example, after swimming in the River Limmat, you can go straight to the up-and-coming Zurich-West district, in which ultra-modern apartments are being built and renowned enterprises establishing themselves, quite apart from its cultural diversity such as theatres, bars, nightclubs and other trendy venues. Hardbrücke Station, which is located on the edge of the district, will further grow in importance for passengers as an interchange point on account of the direct link with a tram line. Following Hohlstrasse with its major high-rise building projects and the facility to change to tram lines 2, 3, 9 and 14 at the Stauffacher stop, you then reach Paradeplatz (connection to lines 2, 6, 7, 9, 11 and 13) and the world-famous Zurich Bahnhofstrasse. From there, the tram continues along the shore of Lake Zurich to Bellevue (connection to lines 2, 4, 5, 9, 11 and 15) and then via Opernhaus and Stadelhofen Station towards Zurichberg and the Klusplatz terminus.

The new line 8 with the Hardbrücke tram link also reflects the VBZ vision ‘Wo wir fahren, lebt Zurich’ (‘Where we go, Zurich is alive’) and ‘Kundinnen und Kunden sind unsere Fans’ (‘Customers are our Fans’). As far as VBZ is concerned, they are not merely passengers to be conveyed from A to B, but our customers, whom we want to win over as our fans.

Four verbs can be derived from the intelligently networked line (to network, to relieve the pressure, to expand, to link) – they play a central role in our communication.

To network

With the Hardbrücke tram link, another tram line will be connected to an important station.

Hardbrücke Station is one of the most important hubs for commuter traffic within the City and Canton of Zurich. In the light of the dynamic settlement development in this area and the growing commuter traffic, forecasts suggest that in the long-term, passenger numbers will grow from the current 45,000 persons a day to around 80,000 persons. At Hardbrücke Station, VBZ functions in just the same way as it does at other important nodal points in the city: as a distributor that takes in-bound and out-bound passengers to their desired destination (currently with bus lines 33, 71 and 72 in particular). A tram line connecting Hardbrücke Station with the tram network is thus of eminent importance. Transfer connections between the S-Bahn and the bus and tram lines will increase considerably in significance with the introduction of the tram link.

To relieve the pressure

As the first tangential tram line, the Hardbrücke tram link will relieve the pressure on Zurich city centre.

Currently, if you want to travel by tram from Stauffacher to Escher-Wyss-Platz, you are forced to take the circuitous route via the centre (Bahnhofstrasse/Main Station). All existing tram lines run through or into the centre of Zurich. This results in certain sections and interchange stops being occasionally overloaded, especially at peak traffic periods. Further expansion in the city centre is not possible. With the Hardbrücke tram link, various inner-city connections can be operated more directly. This will reduce the travelling time for passengers and simultaneously relieve the pressure on the inner-city tram network. It will also relieve the pressure on the heavily used stretch in Limmatstrasse from the Main Station to Escher-Wyss-Platz (lines 4 and 13).

To expand

The tram link is a further important and necessary expansion of the Zurich tram network.

The tangential tram route along the Rosengarten-Hardbrücke axis is a central element of the ‘Züri-Linie 2030’ network development strategy. The Hardbrücke tram link is structurally compatible with possible later expansion stages for the Rosengarten tram (Milchbuck-Albisriederplatz section). However, the Hardbrücke tram link will also bring great benefits for passengers and customers in its own right, such as a direct connection to Hardbrücke Station. Until the Rosengarten tram has been realised (2032 at the earliest), the bus lines will operate a common route via the Hardbrücke bridge in addition to tram line 8. The Rosengarten tram joins Milchbuck with Albisriederplatz and integrates the Hardbrücke tram link in a short section.

To link

The Hardbrücke tram link connects the important development areas and bridges the railway track area.

Together with the new line 4 (Zurich-West tram), the new tram crossing the Hardbrücke bridge improves public transport services in the Zurich-West development area. In particular, the direct connection of Hardturmstrasse with Hardbrücke Station and the faster links between Zurich-West and the Stauffacher/Paradeplatz area will have a positive effect. The Hardbrücke tram link reduces travelling times for passengers from the north of Zurich, Limmattal, Knonaueramt, Zurich Oberland and the right-hand shore of the lake whose destinations lie in the Stauffacher/Paradeplatz area, because they are able to change to the tram at Hardbrücke Station already and thus save themselves the detour via the Main Station. The SBB track area is now crossed three times by the VBZ, with bus lines along Langstrasse and over the Europabrücke and Hardbrücke bridges. With the Hardbrücke tram link, the track area is being bridged with a tram line for the first time, thus linking the Aussersihl and Zurich-West districts and bringing them closer together.

Hardbrücke Station ‘Variant 0+ Kubus’

In order to ensure continued approval of the Hardbrücke tram link, measures are envisaged at Hardbrücke Station to improve the flow of people from the stop on the Hardbrücke bridge to the SBB central platform (platforms 2 and 3). The measures encompass one additional stairwell on each side, as a result of which the existing roof will require modification. An analysis of passenger numbers and the Zurich-West development area revealed that Hardbrücke Station would see passengers almost double from 45,000 today to around 80,000 in 2025. With a volume in the order of 80,000-90,000 passengers, it would be the fifth biggest station in Switzerland from the present perspective (after Zurich Main Station, Bern, Basel and Winterthur, but ahead of Lausanne, Lucerne, Stadelhofen and Oerlikon).

In addition to the increase in capacity, the new stairwells will have the effect of distributing passengers better over the entire SBB platform length so that the crowded situation in the central area does not get even worse. Their clear and simple shapes are to be incorporated in the modern environment (Prime Tower, Mobimo Tower, etc.). Costs of around CHF 28.4 million are envisaged for these measures at Hardbrücke Station alone, with a significant proportion being attributable to complications such as night work in the out-of-service time between 00.30 and 04.30 and safety measures regarding the mainline SBB platforms.

Cost/financing

The total cost of the Hardbrücke tram link is estimated to be around CHF 102 million. The CHF 28 million for the building measures at Hardbrücke Station are separate and not included in this figure. Here it should be mentioned that in addition to the new line, almost the same length again of existing tracks and catenaries will require upgrading. The Hardbrücke tram link project and the modifications at Hardbrücke Station have both been submitted to the Federal Government with a view to joint financing and should receive a contribution of 35% or around CHF 40 million in total. These federal funds will come from mineral oil tax revenues, which are intended to provide financial support for the agglomeration areas of Switzerland.

Deadlines

A start was made on the study at the beginning of 2009 and the preliminary project was completed in 2010. The approval documentation was submitted to the granting authority, the Federal Office of Transport, on 11 November 2011. Planning approval and/or building permission was granted on 6 May 2013, after just four objections to the project had to be considered. The building project and integral cost estimate were completed in spring 2012, allowing the municipal financing to be secured. The financing of the cantonal share was approved by the Zurich Cantonal Council, i.e. the parliament of the Canton of Zurich, on 30 June 2014. The party backed by the largest number of voters in the canton instigated a referendum against the project and its financing, with the result that there will be a popular vote on 30 November 2014 as is common practice for important decisions in Switzerland. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring, with those building works that will impact on traffic only commencing at the start of 2015. The project should come to a conclusion in autumn 2017, enabling services to commence at the time of the normal timetable change in December 2017.

Further information, news and a (virtual) journey can be found at www.vbz.ch/tramverbindung.

Reference

  • Eurotransport, Volume 11, Issue 5, 2013 – ‘Zurich prepares to move with the times’, Jacques Baumann. For a back-issue copy, please contact Karen Hutchinson via email at [email protected].

Biography

Oliver Weder studied Civil Engineering at the HSR Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil. He subsequently worked as a Civil Engineer in a number of private engineering firms in civil, road and railway engineering. During this time Oliver attended an Executive Master of Business Administration programme at the PHW Business School in Zurich. Since 2010 Oliver has been active as Project Manager in the Infrastructure Division of the Zurich Municipal Transport Company (VBZ) and in 2012 he assumed overall project management for the Hardbrücke tram link.

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