Looks nice, but…

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Lodz Regional Tramway – two weeks to opening, BTWT

BTWT is an enthusiastic supporter of Light Rail and Semi-Metro solutions to the traffic problems of large cities. We thought that, once the inevitable teething troubles were over, we should try out the new Lodz Regional Tramway for ourselves. We took three rides, on a section of line between the centre of town and the northerly terminus of the service at Helenowek, in order to prepare this report.

These are the 10 criteria that we used to assess the new service. Each is scored on a range of 0-10. So the maximum possible score is 100.

  1. Description on the box
  2. Comfort and ergonomics
  3. Noise
  4. Staff
  5. Ride quality
  6. Stops
  7. Ticketing
  8. Aesthetics
  9. Disabled access
  10. Information

The LRT vision (Click for a bigger picture.)

2/10 Description on the box

It is branded as the ‘Lodz Regional Tramway’, but at present it runs only within the borders of Lodz between Helenowek and Chocianowice. There is no clear indication when stage 2, linking the outlying towns of Pabianice and Zgierz, will be implemented. Stage 3, upgrading the tramline to Ozorkow, has not reached the stage of a memorandum of understanding, while Alexandrow Lodzki, which generates a huge amount of commuter car traffic into Lodz and lost its tram service in 1995, is not even the subject of a feasibility study. The much heralded tram priority control of traffic lights has yet to be commissioned.

6/10 Comfort and ergonomics

The cars are air conditioned and more bearable in hot weather. The carpet covered plastic seats are less comfortable than those in the 805Na rebuilds, carried out in the municipal tramway ompany’s own workshops. When badly driven, the jerkiness of the ride makes the trams feel dangerous. The low floors do make it much easier to board and alight, particularly for the elderly and small children. (The very high communist-era floor is the main draw back of the modernised 805Na.)

7/10 Noise

External and internal noise is much reduced compared to standard Polish trams, but is still not at European best practice levels. In fact, the degree to which wheel on track noise can be heard inside the cars surprised us.

5/10 Staff

One of the drivers drove his tram like an extreme fairground ride – breathless acceleration and rapid stops. It was all we could do to stop falling off. The same driver, refused to let a passenger get on (even though the tram was stuck in a traffic jam) once he had closed the doors. Other drivers had no difficulty in using more gentle acceleration and deceleration techniques to a create a much more ‘family friendly’ experience.

7/10 Ride Quality

Much better than anything we have ever seen before in Lodz, but the track geometry in general, as well as the rail alignment at welded joints, leaves a lot to be desired.

6/10 Stops

The stops are too close together in the city centre for the trams to be able to operate at their design speed. But, given the added convenience, no marks were deducted for this. The raised platform levels assist boarding and alighting. New fencing prevents waiting passengers being pushed into busy traffic lanes. The stops only accommodate one tram at a time. With portions of the line also used by other Lodz services this results in the trams having to queue at tram stops! The miniature bus shelters are more a decoration than a serious attempt to protect passengers in bad weather. Alas, no thought has been given to bringing the trams closer to major traffic generators such as Manufactura or Custorama, leaving passengers to walk several hundred yards.

6/10 Ticketing

Ticketing is still stuck in the ‘buy a bit of paper in the kiosk’ era. You pay for time on board the tram, not for distance travelled. This is not good news when your tram is stuck in one of Lodz’s increasingly frequent traffic jams. Given the electronics employed elsewhere, this would have been a golden opportunity to automate and improve revenue collection.

10/10 Aesthetics

The PESA 122Ns look smashing, pity about the seats, but we have already dealt with the latter!

1/10 Disabled access

The height of the platforms at stops and the floor height of the trams have not been equalised. The service has not been designed for unaccompanied wheelchair users. Polish transport bosses really need to get their act together on this.

8/10 Information

The automatic voice recordings and LCD displays announcing the next stop are useful. But London Underground style individual route schematics in the cars and maps of the whole system at the stops would be very helpful.

58/100 Overall score

Not trying hard enough. Could do much better!

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One Response to “Looks nice, but…”

  1. korschtal Says:

    You pay for time on the tram? What a strange idea. I thought the point of mass transit was to be quick, but that would give no incentive to speed things up- quite the opposite, I’d have thought.

    BTW you asked a while ago why many cities don’t send trams underground and make a semi-metro. I think it may be better on the surface- stuffing trams underground says “we want them out of the way (of cars)” and it also makes an extra barrier (steps/lift) for people wanting to use them.

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