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2012: ‘year of the tram’ in Vienna

Posted: 31 October 2012 | Günter Steinbauer, CEO, Wiener Linien | No comments yet

Public transport in Vienna is highly popular and is well known on an international level. However, the fact that Vienna has declared 2012 as the ‘year of the tram’ is a real rarity. While the popularity of trams seems to be fading in many countries around the world, Wiener Linien has made a clear commitment to its trams, together with the City of Vienna, and is expanding their use.

For more than 150 years, trams have been a fixed part of Vienna’s image, just like the famous Fiaker carriages belong to Vienna’s city centre. Vienna’s trams began life with a horse-drawn tram line in 1865. The Vienna Tramway Company was founded in 1872, from which time the New Vienna Tramway Company also became a direct competitor. Just a few years later in 1883, the first steam-powered tramway was travelling around Vienna. In 1897, a new era was ushered in when the first tram line powered by electricity was opened. Then, just two years later in 1899, the City of Vienna assumed control of the licence for building and running the ‘Electrics’, as trams were affectionately known in Vienna at that time. Work to expand the network of tram lines in the Austrian capital reached its peak during the interwar years.

Public transport in Vienna is highly popular and is well known on an international level. However, the fact that Vienna has declared 2012 as the ‘year of the tram’ is a real rarity. While the popularity of trams seems to be fading in many countries around the world, Wiener Linien has made a clear commitment to its trams, together with the City of Vienna, and is expanding their use.For more than 150 years, trams have been a fixed part of Vienna’s image, just like the famous Fiaker carriages belong to Vienna’s city centre. Vienna’s trams began life with a horse-drawn tram line in 1865. The Vienna Tramway Company was founded in 1872, from which time the New Vienna Tramway Company also became a direct competitor. Just a few years later in 1883, the first steam-powered tramway was travelling around Vienna. In 1897, a new era was ushered in when the first tram line powered by electricity was opened. Then, just two years later in 1899, the City of Vienna assumed control of the licence for building and running the ‘Electrics’, as trams were affectionately known in Vienna at that time. Work to expand the network of tram lines in the Austrian capital reached its peak during the interwar years.

Public transport in Vienna is highly popular and is well known on an international level. However, the fact that Vienna has declared 2012 as the ‘year of the tram’ is a real rarity. While the popularity of trams seems to be fading in many countries around the world, Wiener Linien has made a clear commitment to its trams, together with the City of Vienna, and is expanding their use.

For more than 150 years, trams have been a fixed part of Vienna’s image, just like the famous Fiaker carriages belong to Vienna’s city centre. Vienna’s trams began life with a horse-drawn tram line in 1865. The Vienna Tramway Company was founded in 1872, from which time the New Vienna Tramway Company also became a direct competitor. Just a few years later in 1883, the first steam-powered tramway was travelling around Vienna. In 1897, a new era was ushered in when the first tram line powered by electricity was opened. Then, just two years later in 1899, the City of Vienna assumed control of the licence for building and running the ‘Electrics’, as trams were affectionately known in Vienna at that time. Work to expand the network of tram lines in the Austrian capital reached its peak during the interwar years.

Today, Vienna’s tram network comprises 28 lines and 172km of tracks, making it the fifth largest in the world. Wiener Linien is proud of this impressive network and is extending it with two further tram lines in 2012, and another one being revamped and equipped with a newly built section of tracks.

Extension of underground and tram lines go hand in hand

The underground network is the backbone of public transport in Vienna. Of the 2.4 million passengers that are on the move every day, 1.6 million use the underground. However, trams continue to be immensely popular and have the potential to transport many more people. Around 194 million passengers use Vienna’s network of tram lines every year. This equates to more than 530,000 passengers every day. Focusing particularly on Vienna’s outer districts, which have enormous potential for urban development, Wiener Linien and the City of Vienna have decided that the extension of the underground network should go hand in hand with an extension of the tram network.

As a result, tram line 26 will receive 10 extra stations and be extended by 4.6km in Vienna’s 22nd District (Donaustadt) – its largest and fastest growing district – and line 25 will be revamped and fitted with a new stretch of tracks during 2012. Work on laying tracks is already well underway and is being constructed in a way that fits well with the aim to achieve an attractive surface and station design. As of autumn 2013, tram line 26 will cover a distance of 12.1km. After its inauguration at the turn of this same year, line 25 will then travel a distance of 9.5km. This means that, together with line 26, the centres of Floridsdorf and Donaustadt will benefit from even closer connections.

The two tram lines enhance the attractiveness of these parts of the city, improving links to the existing U1, U2 and U6 underground lines in the north of the city. The new line 26 will provide a direct connection to the districts of Donaustadt and Floridsdorf, three underground stations (U6 Floridsdorf, U1 Kagraner Platz and U2 Hausfeldstraße) and the suburban railway, together with a newly opened U2 extension line to Seestadt Aspern. Wiener Linien is investing a total of €84 million in the extension of line 26 and the revitalisation of tram line 25. This is money well spent because extending the infrastructure means that the attractiveness of public transport, and therefore customer satisfaction, can be increased on a long-term basis. The new lines of track being constructed – both at ground level and in elevated positions – for the two tram lines make the lines largely independent of the rest of the traffic – in contrast to the majority of Vienna’s tram lines. For passengers this means greater reliability, shorter journey times and increased convenience as the two lines will largely run on dedicated tracks and therefore be separated from individual motorised traffic. Barrierfree stations equipped with tactile guidance systems for visually impaired passengers and green track areas are as much a feature of the new lines as a special bridge construction over an industrial estate.

New main railway station connected to the tram network

The south of the city will also see action this year as the popular D line will be extended to serve the main railway station. This means that Vienna’s main railway station will benefit from good connections to both the underground and the tram network.

When the new main railway station begins partial operations at the end of 2012, the D line will be extended to the eastern exit of the main railway station. However, in the long-term, this will not remain the final stop of the D line as it is also set to grow in accordance with the urban development in the area around the new railway station, and in 2019, will provide the southern part of Vienna with tram connections, if residential projects develop accordingly.

Extra infrastructure brings more passengers

Thirty-seven per cent of all journeys in Vienna are now made on public transport. The City of Vienna intends to increase this to 40% by 2020. To achieve this, a widespread and attractive network is needed, together with modern vehicles and efficient services. With the opening of the U2 extension from Stadion to Aspernstraße in autumn 2010, public transport became increasingly popular in Donaustadt. A study conducted by Wiener Linien revealed that the proportion of journeys made in Donaustadt on public transport increased from 28% before the U2 extension line was opened (September 2010) to 34% within one year. This corresponds to an increase of 20%. By the same token, Wiener Linien’s customer satisfaction has risen further since the U2 was extended from 2.12 to 1.98 (1= very good).

With a fleet of more than 500 tram cars, Vienna has one of the largest tramway fleets in the world. Vienna’s Ultra Low Floor (ULF) tram is a record-breaker as it has the world’s lowest boarding height at just 197mm. This means that passengers with reduced mobility can board trams just as easily and safely as those without.

Clean travelling

Vienna intends to increase the position of public transport as the city’s preferred method of transport. In order to do this, a large and wellconceived concept is needed. While Wiener Linien naturally sets store by the underground, it is particularly important to strike the right functional balance between all modes of public transport. Although the underground is the backbone of the public transport system in Vienna, life without the popular tram in the city is unimaginable. Together with the under – ground, the trams also ensure that the majority of passengers travel in Vienna without increasing CO2 emissions – as they are the two most popular modes of public transport that are operated by electricity.

Energy recovery system in use

With a whole host of innovative projects, Wiener Linien is taking important steps to make public transport even more environmentallyfriendly in the future. For example, 120 type E2 tram cars have already been fitted with ‘chopper control’. Equipment used in vehicles up to now to control speed and braking strength have been replaced by new, electronic chopper controls. This means that even older, second generation tram cars feed energy produced during braking back into the overhead power lines, thereby helping to improve energy efficiency when travelling. Consequently, between 25 and 30% of braking energy is made available to other trams as drive energy.

Researching efficient ventilation systems

The ‘EcoTram’ project launched by Wiener Linien in 2009 is currently in its second phase and has a main objective to further reduce the energy consumption of public transport in Vienna. The focus of the research is on determining the savings potential for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units in the ULFs. During the first phase, various weather and passenger load conditions were simulated as part of climatic wind tunnel tests, with tram car energy consumption being measured using special sensors. The results of the first research phase are currently being incorporated into the work to develop a non-commercial prototype. There are plans to take additional measurements in wind tunnel and passenger operations during 2013, taking into account the suggestions for improvement arising from the collected data.

All of this demonstrates that Wiener Linien is aware of the importance of trams to the city and that the company is taking action to enhance the popularity and attractiveness of Vienna’s ‘Electrics’.

 

About the author

Günter Steinbauer has been part of Wiener Linien’s Management Board since 2001 and has been Chairman for eight years. After studying Civil Engineering and Construction, Günter started his career at Vienna’s public transport company. Günter has now been working for Wiener Linien for 30 years and has played an important role in extending Vienna’s underground network.

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