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TPG give their trams a facelift – the quest for new technology

Posted: 28 October 2009 | Roland Bonzon, Director General, Geneva Public Transport (TPG) | No comments yet

Geneva and the tramway – this is an old story of being in-love and out-of-love. Following an impressive expansion between 1903 and 1924, (at its peak, the Geneva tram system was one of the most extensive in Europe), there was a period of long recess during the 1920s. Then came a re-burst of passion: at the beginning of the 1990s, after 30 years of dismantling, the tram became popular again. While certain sections of rails from that period have remained in place and are still being used today, we have come a far way from the steam powered tram and Geneva’s first electrical trams. Technology has evolved immensely and the Geneva Public Transport (TPG) has followed in its movement.

Geneva and the tramway - this is an old story of being in-love and out-of-love. Following an impressive expansion between 1903 and 1924, (at its peak, the Geneva tram system was one of the most extensive in Europe), there was a period of long recess during the 1920s. Then came a re-burst of passion: at the beginning of the 1990s, after 30 years of dismantling, the tram became popular again. While certain sections of rails from that period have remained in place and are still being used today, we have come a far way from the steam powered tram and Geneva's first electrical trams. Technology has evolved immensely and the Geneva Public Transport (TPG) has followed in its movement.

Geneva and the tramway – this is an old story of being in-love and out-of-love. Following an impressive expansion between 1903 and 1924, (at its peak, the Geneva tram system was one of the most extensive in Europe), there was a period of long recess during the 1920s. Then came a re-burst of passion: at the beginning of the 1990s, after 30 years of dismantling, the tram became popular again. While certain sections of rails from that period have remained in place and are still being used today, we have come a far way from the steam powered tram and Geneva’s first electrical trams. Technology has evolved immensely and the Geneva Public Transport (TPG) has followed in its movement.

The Flexity tram from the Canadian company, Bombardier, is the latest addition to our fleet. The 7-module (six articulations), 100% low-floor vehicle is 42m-long, weighs 50 tonnes, is air-conditioned and has special low-noise levels. It meets the latest safety requirements and is bi-directional, thus corresponding to the new layout of the network. Over 2,500 trams of this type are in circulation in approximately 100 cities across some 20 countries. We presently operate 21 such trams on our network. This model proved so satisfactory that we raised our initial order by 18 more trams. The first new Flexity arrived at our depot on 4 September 2009. Delivery of the remaining 17 vehicles is planned at a rate of two deliveries per month, to be completed by spring 2010.

Creating new, better-performing, more comfortable and safer vehicles from old stock

At TPG, progress is not only limited to the acquisition of new efficient stock, it also includes our capacity to upgrade and make more of what we have already got. The company strategy at environmental, social and economic levels is, on the one hand, based on safety and on the other, sustainable development. The respect of these principles is part of our daily endeavours. In this context, it is essential to find resourceful solutions that guarantee the life span of our vehicles, while strengthening our reliability and productivity; rather than simply selling what’s old and buying new.

Thanks to the exceptional expertise of some 30 technicians (in the smallest group, seven people work on the project each day) we are now able to refurbish 46 trams of older generations. The 46 vehicles which have now reached their commercial midlife (which is an average 17 years) are DAV’s from Düwag-Vevey (Switzerland) manufactured between 1987 and 1989. They were then considered to be the very first, at least partially, low-floor trams. Pioneers at that time, TPG were the first in the world to purchase low-floor vehicles, a specification required when seeking for tenders for the acquisition of new vehicles. Originally, the DAV were bi-articulated cars (series 03). In 1996, seeking new improvements to passenger services, our company transformed 22 of these cars into 3-section vehicles (series 04) in order to gain passenger capacity.

Today, it is again our quest for new technology and the know-how acquired that allows us to renew our fleet, not by replacing it, but by giving it an in-house facelift. After a thorough check-up and careful diagnosis, these 46 trams undergo no less than approximately fifty transformations / renovations / improvements aimed at the safety and comfort of our passengers as well as the conductors. Work undertaken includes:

  • Area: complete overhaul and refurbishment of interior and exterior painting, seats, floors, etc. Updating of the company logo
  • Interior passenger information: set-up of information screens
  • Access: fitting of electronic barriers to prevent the closing of the doors
  • Windows: installation of athermic glass panes (for comfort in summer and in winter as well as improving energy savings)
  • Heating: improvement / regulation for more comfort
  • Passengers of reduced mobility: installation of an access ramp for wheelchairs and a reserved seat with safety belt
  • Conductor’s seat: replacement with a new more comfortable seat
  • Lighting: improvement of lighting
  • Signal box: integration and simplification of commands
  • Traction chain: replacement of the chain
  • Sandbags: improvement of sand dispersion on rails (replacement of the flexible rubber pipe with a rigid stainless steel tube
  • Electricity / electronics: renewal of cables and 600V / 24V connections
  • Perfected greasing of the wheel flanges

Modifications to the conductor’s cabins were carried out in order to match our most recent tram generation, the Flexity.

The modifications allow us to warrant the reliability and productivity of these vehicles and to maintain them in operation on the network for another 10-15 years, while generating substantial savings. Finally, after approximately 45 days of being put out of action and reconstructed, it is a practically new tram that leaves our workshop. Thanks to the in-house know-how!

What about the future tramway?

The tram network is in full boom; at the end of this year, jointly with the State of Geneva, we will inaugurate the 3.8km extension in direction of the CERN that is planned for the tram. By the end of 2011, an entirely new axis of 6.5km of double-track will connect Cornavin-Onex-Bernex.

It seems evident that the tram is at the heart of public transport in Geneva. To face up to this expansion and meet the challenges of mobility in the Canton of Geneva, the Geneva Public Transport has planned ahead.

Further to the 18 Flexity trams presently being manufactured in Bruges, tenders for the acquisition of new trams were sought last June – the future constructor of Geneva’s new trams has not yet been designated. Therefore the appearance of the new Geneva trams remains unidentified and promises to be a surprise… however, it is certain that it will be a vehicle bestowed with the very latest technology!

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