Archive for the ‘tram’ Category

Tram skateboard

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Sustainable transport in Bratislava. Video © Tomáš Moravec

With tram frequency only a fraction of what it was 10 years ago, is this DIY approach the solution to the problem of providing a decent public transport service in Lodz?

A hat tip to Tomasz Adamkiewicz for the link.

New municipal transport museum for Lodz

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Open day at the former Tramwaje Podmiejskie depot, Zajezdnia Brus, on 22.9.2013. Photo BTWT.

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on the image.)

Thanks to the initiative of Thomas Adamkiewicz and a group of tram enthusiasts the former Tramwaje Podmiejskie Brus tram depot on the Lodz-Konstantinow-Lutomiersk interurban line has been earmarked by the city of Lodz for a new municipal transport museum.


‘Sanok’ built in 1928 was withdrawn from service and served as a garden shed until it was rescued by Tomasz Adamkiewicz, After an 11-year restoration to working order it is back on the tracks. Photo BTWT.

The depot is already home to a growing collection of withdrawn trams. Some of these were previously stored at the now closed Helenowek tram depot which serviced the Międzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa trams serving Zgierz and Ozorkow.


Tramway freight vehicles! Photo BTWT.

Goods vans dating back to the days when the Łódzkie Wąskotorowe Elektryczne Koleje Dojazdowe (Lodz Electric Narrow Gauge District Railways) carried freight as well as passengers.

The vans were the subject of our last competition. Congratulations once again to Eric Binamé for getting the answer absolutely correct. John Schøler Nielsen was also a close runner up – he had identified the wagons correctly, but had not realised that they had been moved from the Helenowek depot since he had last seen and photographed them.

The bogie flat wagon in the foreground has a colourful past. Built by the Gregg Company Ltd in Belgium for export to a sugar cane railway. It was seized by the Germans together with the factory in which it had been built during WWI and sent to Poland.


The old and new in Warsaw

Friday, 21 December 2012


(All photos may be enlarged by clicking on the image.)

Four wheel tram in Warsaw! All photos taken on 4 October 2012 by Dyspozytor on an iPhone 4 and colour graded in Adobe’s Lightroom. (BTWT)

A big apology to BTWT’s faithful readers for our three week sabbatical. Dyspozytor has a new job! The upside is that this has been taking him all over the country with lots of opportunities to ride Poland’s trains and test out stations titivated for Euro 2012. The downside is that he has been returning home too exhausted to write anything useful.


The perils of heavy metro construction – the site of Swietokrzyska station on Warsaw Metro Line 2. Within a day or so of this photograph being taken construction workers hit a water main at this very spot, the construction site was flooded and people evacuated from neighbouring buildings. (BTWT)

However, Christmas would not be Christmas without Behind The Water Tower and the holiday does provide our somewhat ancient Editor-in-Chief with a bit of a breather. So like an express steam locomotive that has been undergoing a major overhaul, BTWT’s first outing on the rails since 30 November is only a light duty, a particularly BTWTish look at trams and Metro construction in Warsaw.


2115 works four wheeler of uncertain parentage and 3023 Konstal-built 116Na/1. With 61% of the interior low-floor, the 116Na/1 was the ultimate development of the line that started with the Konstal 13N. (BTWT)

When Dyspozytor first set foot in Warsaw in the mid 1960s most of the city’s trams where 4-wheelers (N, ND and 4N, 4ND) built in batches mostly by Konstal in Chorzow between 1948 and 1961). Bogie trams (13N), based on a Czech design and inspired by the 1930s PCC fast trams built in the USA, were being introduced. They were prone to breakdowns and had angled fronts and rear ends. Warsaw commuters quickly nicknamed them trumny (coffins).


More than a half century of design and operating experience separate the two trams. (BTWT)

The 112N and its later derivatives (116Na and 116Na) were Warsaw’s first low floor trams and the 116Na/1 seemed set to transform Warsaw’s tram scene in the early 2000s, but it was not to be. Only 26 116Na/1s were ordered and then the City choose the more glamorous looking 120Na from PESA as its new look tram for the 2012 championships.


How it could be (1). A modern rapid transit style tram stop at Arsenal. (BTWT)

A combination of congestion charging, more ground level light rail, and decent park and ride facilities around the City’s periphery is the right answer to Warsaw’s traffic problems, NOT very expensive and agonisingly slow heavy metro construction.

Ken bikes

How it could be (2). Boris (Ken?) bikes but nowhere safe to ride them. (BTWT)

Oh, and some decent safe and comfortable bike routes as well!

Bydgoszcz station regains a tram link…

Friday, 23 November 2012

…23 years after the earlier line was closed!

The opening ceremonies. Video by .

On Thursday (22 November), almost 23 years after the closure of the old line, Bydgoszcz railway station is again connected to the city’s tram network. Rafal Bruski, the Mayor of Bydgoszcz, hopes that the 80 million zl investment is just the first of a series of major public transport, which the city plans to implement in the coming years.

The new 1.75 km spur to the station. Map courtesy OpenStreetMap.

The 1.75 km spur leads from ul. Focha, and crosses the River Brda by means of a 70 metre suspension bridge to terminate in a loop near Bydgoszcz Glowny railway station. In addition to the construction of the track the project also included the reconstruction of streets and pavements, construction of bike paths and the installation of a modern passenger information system.

A hat tip to podroznik for the story.


Tram/van crash in Lodz

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The accident site looking west. Only one eastbound lane of ul. Limanowskiego was closed and westbound trams continued to run past the accident site, a yellow recovery van is just arriving at the scene. Photo BTWT.

(Click to enlarge.)

At around 09:30 this morning, just as the rush hour traffic was starting to ease off, a No.2 tram, comprising Konstal 105Na driving car and trailer, was running westwards along Ul. Limanowskiego towards Lodz town centre. The tram had crossed the pointwork and dual carriageway road crossing with al. Wlokniarzy and had accelerated away along the recently relaid track towards its next stop at ul. Mokra.

The driver of a Fiat Ducato van in UPS livery attempted to turn in front of the tram into a private road belonging to a motor dealership. The tram hit the side of the van and propelled the van sideways some 14 metres before the both vehicles stopped.

A MPK (Municipal Transport Department) breakdown truck and one of three fire department trucks that were despatched to the scene. Photo BTWT.

(Click to enlarge.)

Both drivers were taken to hospital. The tram driver is not believed to be seriously hurt. The condition of the van driver is not known at the moment. According to local residents, ince the tram tracks were relaid along ul. Limanowskiego, trams are running much faster than they did before and the area around the crossings with al. Wlokniarzy and ul. Mokra has become an notorious accident black spot.

On 23 October, an articulated truck collided with a tram injuring one person, on 27 March, an 18 year-old girl was killed when she walked in front of a tram on the pedestrian crossing by ul. Mokra while talking on her mobile telephone, and on 19 January, a 32 year old cyclist died after being run over by a tram near the spot where today’s accident took place.

The level crossing that was the site of the collision. The long scratch on the concrete blocks is the result of an earlier accident. Photo BTWT.

Local residents had got used to trams creeping slowly along ul. Limanowskiego over many years  and when the track got too bad tram services were suspended for a couple of years.  The speeded up trams have become an unexpected hazard at all the various road, pedestrian and cycle crossings in the area. The problem is compounded by poor visibility at some of the crossings.

Given all the circumstances, it seems extraordinary that when the track was improved, and tram speeds were raised, no warning were lights installed. Apparently minor collisions occur every week on the crossing where today’s accident took place!

The site of the collision. The No.2 tram was running westwards and accelerating away from the junction and crossroads with al. Wlokniarzy. The van driver was proceeding across the level crossing (red dot). Map OpenStreetMap.

What was impressive about today’s incident was the minimum amount of fuss made by the police and emergency services. Ul. Limanowskiego remained open to road traffic albeit with only one lane in operation, and westbound trams continued to operate, while trams running towards the city centre were re-routed down ul. Wlokniarzy.

Olsztyn – double tram triumph

Monday, 24 September 2012

Simulation of a tram journey on the yet-to-be-built route. Video by Olsztynska Telewizja Internetowa for U.M. Olsztyn.

Proponents of the planned brand new tram system in Olsztyn have two reasons to celebrate – not only did construction of the new travel system commence on 12 September, but also on 21 September a contract was signed with Solaris for the supply of 15 Tramino trams.

Construction works on ul. Ploskiego. Photo U.M. Olsztyn.

Olsztyn lost its small 6 km tram system in 1965 when it was one of several smaller Polish towns and cities that decided that trams no would no longer play a part in their future transport arrangements.

Olsztyn Tramino. Graphic by Solaris Bus & Coach S.A.

The idea of building a new tram system in Olsztyn dates back to 2006 when a radical reconstruction of the town’s transport infrastructure was envisaged. Several different proposals were first analysed by consultants and then subjected to extensive public consultation. The result – a 105 million euro project for an integrated transport systems. 85% of the cost will come from the EU regional development bidget, 15% from the city council’s own funds. When the project is completed in 2014, Olsztyn will have gained a modern public transport system with: ‘intelligent’ traffic lights, dedicated bus lanes and a 10.5 km tramway.

Old Olsztyn, Video ; Music Czerwony Tulipan.

Building work formally started in March this years, but actual construction work was delayed until September, because of problems with the ‘paperwork’. Meanwhile the procurement of trams was delayed when Pesa challenged the result of the first tender which had been won by Newag-Modertrans. Now, a second tender has been held, all legal obstacles have been cleared, and the construction of trams in the Solaris works in Poznan can begin.


IKEA Tram Triumph

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Is it a Victorian conservatory? No it’s a tram. Photo IKEA.

(Click image to enlarge.)

I am off to Poznan to sink into a comfortable arm chair, enjoy the décor of Victorian floral prints, and travel by tram free of charge. That I can do all three at the same time time is the brilliant PR brainwave of IKEA whose Poznan Franowo store wanted to let the rest of the city know that it is now possible to visit the shop by tram.

IKEA and Polish trams would not usually be associated together. While enjoying a ‘good design at good value’ market positioning in the West, IKEA stores have a distinctly ‘up-market’ brand image in Poland and other former Soviet satellites in the East. Here the typical IKEA customer drives a large 4×4 with smoked windows and employs a Belarussian cleaner.

In Poland, trams are not seen as an ‘eco-friendly’ solution to urban transport gridlock, but as a grim communist era hand me down. Consequently they get banned from the centres of Polish cities and cars – not trams – are given priority at traffic lights and road junctions.

The Victorian floral print style. Photo courtesy Laura Ashley.

(Click image to browse the Laura Ashley catalogue where the original photo appears. Click here to enlarge image.)

I must admit that Victorian floral prints give me the goose bumps. I am immediately transported to the 1960s. Hands up those BTWT readers who remember the Cambrian Coast Express steaming past the Laura Ashley factory on the site of Carno Station or the pioneering Laura Ashley store in South Kensington’s Pelham St? What, only one hand? Never mind, what Laura Ashley sells to the classes, IKEA sells to the masses, to paraphrase that amazing consumer electronics entrepreneur, Jack Tramiel.

To press home the point that IKEA products are for everybody, not just Poland’s nouveau riche, IKEA struck a deal with MPK, Poznan’s municipal transport company. One articulated tram set has been refitted internally with IKEA furnishings and will operate a free-of-charge service along the new line to Franowo for a fortnight.

The on- tram ad says Przyjedz do nas tramwajem (Come to us by tram). Photo IKEA.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Deservedly, IKEA’s gamble has paid off and the PR stunt has generated a massive amount of free publicity for the company. At the same time the company’s deal with MPK has improved the image of the city’s tram network and publicised the opening of the Franowo extension. A win for both sides. Brilliant! Many thanks to Podroznik for tipping us off about the story.


Trams make cities more ‘liveable’

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


D1 Combino tram at Melbourne Town Hall.
Photo Bahnfrend.

(Click image to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s last Liveability Ranking and Overview Melbourne is the best city in the world to live in while Vienna comes a close second. London trails a long way behind and is ranked as the 55th most ‘liveable’ city in the world.

The Economist’s methodology is somewhat subjective – members of the EIU panel award points for such factors as crime levels, education, health care, culture and infrastructure – and then multiply the points by a weighting predetermined for each factor.

However, it is noteworthy that, at 250 km, Melbourne has the largest urban tramway network in the world. Melbourne is the only Australian city that defied the general Australian trend of scrapping its city tramways. The retention of its tram network is due to determined opposition by the trade unions, the general public and the vision of the chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, Sir Robert Risson.

Great Britain – which liquidated its tramways in the 1950s – had no Sir Roberts, and has no cities in the Economist’s top 50. Manchester, at number 51 is Britain’s most ‘liveable’ city according to the study. Could it be a coincidence that Manchester started building a new tram network in 1988 and is actively expanding the system, partly by building new ‘inter-urban’ extensions on former ‘heavy rail’ lines?

Finally, by way of proof that trams and ‘liveablity’ go together, the Economist’s second best choice is Vienna. Vienna has a thriving tram network. Currently the city fathers have a policy of replacing tram lines in the city centre by traditional metro – somewhat similar to the current trend in Warsaw. However, what with the with the slow pace of Metro construction, its cost and the financial crisis, trams are likely to retain a key role in both city’s transport systems.

How do Polish cities fare? Unfortunately, the complete rankings are not provided in the brief FOC  ‘summary’ and the full reports cost many thousands of Euros. If any BTWT reader has read any of the full EIU Liveability reports and knows the rankings of Polish cities, do please share them with us.


The good and bad in Szczecin

Friday, 10 August 2012

1926 ‘Bremen’ tram interior.
Photo Michal Pilaszkiewicz, Muzeum Techniki i Komunikacji.

(Click image to see original on website.)

There are not many cities in Europe that posses a transport museum, with all the exhibits stored under cover in an expertly restored building, in which a perfect balance has been struck between the new function of the building and the preservation of its historic character and context.

Yet this praiseworthy facility is located, not in some prosperous city in Western Europe, but in Szczecin located in the very ‘top left hand corner’ of Poland. Szczecin itself has had the heart of its local economy ripped out when its main shipyard, Stocznia Szczecinska, closed in stages during the last decade.

In the 1960s, the shipyard employed some 30,000 people, and almost every family in the town had someone who was either employed by the yard or worked for one of its suppliers. During the Solidarity era, the shipyard became one of the bulwarks of the trade union. After the collapse of communism, the shipyard was privatised, its workforce reduced to 11,000 and its activities concentrated on large bulk carriers.

In 1991, Krzystof Piotrkowski took over as CEO of the shipyard. He was hailed as an economic guru for rescuing it from verge of bankruptcy, restoring its credibility with customers and making the it profitable. The yard was featured as a ‘case study‘ example of transformation best practice by the influential Harvard Business Review.

10 years later, in spite of overflowing order books (the yard was building 17 ships, but only had working funds for 11) the state banks refused to extend the shipyard’s credit line, and in March 2002 production halted. The SLD-led post-communist government demanded that the shipyard’s board members hand over their shares to the state before any financial help in the form of credit guarantees or loans could be forthcoming. When they refused, the Minister for Trade began planning to re-nationalise the shipyard after first allowing it to go bankrupt.

When it seemed possible that a further downsizing and a new credit line might after all allow the shipyard to continue – in a move that eerily presaged the arrest of Yukos boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the board members were arrested on the orders of the Minister of the Interior. The shipyard was declared bankrupt and its assets were seized by the government. It seems that Poland’s economic transformation had outstripped the business ethics of its government. 6 years later all the arrested board members were declared innocent, but by then it was too late for the yard.

The state-owned Nowa Stocznia Szczecinska made huge losses and ate up government funds some 20 times greater than the size of the loan guarantees originally requested by Piotrkowski. There were several abortive attempts to find private buyers. In the end, all these efforts collapsed, and the yard is now in the final stages of liquidation.


  • Misja specjalna (Special assignment)
    (TVP1 2008 TV programme with English subtitles)

Museum exterior. Photo by Kerim44.

(Click image to see original and for details of licensing.)

Gradually Szczecin is reinventing itself. While three smaller shipyards specialising in building smaller vessels for profitable niche markets still keep the ship-building tradition alive, the construction of giant bulk carriers in the main yard has ceased for ever. Jobs in new industries such as IT  and call-centres are replacing those in traditional metal-bashing. Unemployment remain a serious problem, in April 2012, some 18,600 people were out of work giving the city an unemployment rate of 10.7%.

Given the city’s recent history and its economic difficulties it is remarkable that the City Council has created one of the best city transport museum’s in Poland. The site of the museum is a former tram depot, opened in 1912 and built according to the design of two Berlin architects Griesbach and Steinmetz. The original depot consisted of 9 roads. In 1927, a smaller 5 road shed was built onto the east side of the original building and a two road workshop on the west.

Following the depot’s closure, the Szczecinskie Towarzystwo Milosnikow Komunikacji Miejskiej (Szczecin Urban Transport Enthusiasts Society) gained access to the building in October 2004. They acquired a number of historic tramcars and commenced restoration work.

In November 2005, the City Council decided formally to create the Muzeum Techniki i Komunikacji – Zajezdnia Sztuki (Museum of Technology and Transport) in the depot. The project received funding support in the form of a Norway Grant and an European Economic Area Grant to a total of 2.3 million euro, the remainder of the 13 million euro cost of rebuilding the tram depot and equipping the museum came from the city council’s own funds.

The tracks and overhead wiring have been preserved in the yard area with a carefully restored cobble stone pavement. Also retained inside the main hall are the tracks, inspection pits and an under-floor wheel lathe; the pits being glazed over for safety with architectural glass.

There are 6 permanent exhibitions. The largest exhibits – 7 trams and 3 buses – comprise the History of Szczecin Public Transport exhibition. Several motorcycles built in pre-war Szczecin make up the Szczecin Motor Transport 1919-1945 exhibition; a further group of motorcycles and two prototype ‘Smyk’ mini cars, all built in Szczecin motorcycle factory form the Szczecin Motor Transport 1954-1967 exhibition. Two other permanent exhibitions are dedicated to Polish communist era motor cars and motorcycles, while the third focuses on pre-war motorcycles. Most of the motor vehicle exhibits come from the private collection of Leszek Liszewski, which the city authorities purchased in 2007 for 1.5 million zloty (about £300,000).

The museum excels in many ways and a visit is highly recommended. Particularly impressive is the fact that, although the museum is today a shining example of European best practice, it has not forgotten its modest beginnings in the work of the Szczecin Urban Transport Enthusiasts Society and that, even today, there is still a role to be played by volunteers.


4N1 293 4-wheeler driving car built in 1962.
Photo MTS.

The museum is not the only place in Szczecin where one may encounter vintage trams. On Sundays in July and August ZDiTM, the Szczecin Road and Transport Management Company, runs a tourist vintage tram service around the centre of the city. Sadly it is no longer possible to ride in the 1926 Bremen 4-wheeler, which now has pride of place in the new museum, and only ran the service in 2001. These days the tourist service trams are somewhat more modern such as this 1962 4N1 caught at the Golecin tram depot through the window of a another tram.


Farewell TP and MKT

Friday, 20 July 2012

Farewell to Tramwaje Podmiesjie. PVideo by .

On 1 April 2012 (a very apposite date) The interurban tram services operated by Tramwaje Podmiejskie (services 43 and 43bis to Lutomiersk and Konstantynow) and Miedzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa (service 46 and 46A to Ozorkow) were taken over by Miejskie Przedsiebiorstwo Komunikacyjne, the the Lodz municipal transport company.

TP and MKT were run on a shoestring by TP and MKT, and actually cost the city of Lodz LESS to carry passengers within the city’s boundary than did MPK. Many interested observers of the Lodz tram scene, BTWT included, fear that the takeover is but the first step to the cut back or abolition of the interurban services.

These two fine videos by Piotr Pter19 are a fitting memorial to both TP and MKT and to the Konstal 803N articulated units which were decommissioned when MPK took over.

Miedzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa. PVideo by .

Congratulations to Piotr for his excellent work on board some shaky trams running over some very dodgy track!

The golden telescope

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Hong Kong tramway. Video by .

Michael Dembinski over at W-wa Jeziorki regularly experiences feelings of deja vu. He puts on a WWII GI’s soldier’s helmet and it feels very familiar. He sees a great open field in the middle of the great Polish plain and is suddenly transported to the American West. I suffer from something altogether much weirder.

In 1980, I was standing in Basle near the railway station looking out on to the town. It was not a particularly stunning view: some characteristically European roofs and advertising hoardings in the background, shops with windows full of goods in the middle distance, busy modern trams in the foreground. Then the feeling hit me, this could have been Poland if the boundary between the Soviet region of influence and the West’s had been drawn a couple of thousand miles to the East.

Today, the greyness characteristic of Poland in the 1970s and 80s has gone and a similar view can be seen: in Poznan, Wroclaw, Warsaw or Gdansk. So was I looking into a Philip Pullman Dark Materials Trilogy parallel universe where the betrayals at Tehran and Yalta had never happened, or was I being granted a view of the future?

I certainly do seem to get the occasional ‘flash forwards’. I remember reading the August 1981 Byte magazine. The whole issue was devoted to the research that had been done at Xerox Parc in Palo Alto into object-oriented programming, graphical user interfaces (GUI) and ‘what you see is what you get’ computing. Although the systems had been developed on big computers I remember being hit by an overwhelming feeling that in the future all ‘personal computers’ (the term had just been invented by IBM) would work like this. The first successful personal computer with a GUI, the Apple Mac, was actually launched in January 1984.

So why do I react so strongly to this short film about the Hong Kong tramway, the largest operator of double deck trams in the world? Is it because British cities could have been like this, if pro motor car interests had not succeeded in wiping out virtually all of the UK’s tramways in the 1950s and 60s? Or is it a glimpse into what Britain’s tramways might yet be like in the future?

Poznan tram extension ready for comissioning

Monday, 9 July 2012

The route of the extension from the Osiedle Lecha housing estate to the site of the new depot at Franowo. Map ZTM, Poznan.

(Click the map to see a larger, more detailed, map courtesy of Open Street Map.)

A 2 km tram extension costing 2.75 hundred million zloty is about to be commissioned in Poznan. The extension from Os. Lecha (currently serviced by routes 1, 5, 16 & 17) will link the existing tram network to a new tram depot being built adjacent to Poznan’s largest marshalling yard at Franowo.

A new stop at Swedzka will provide tram passengers access to the M1 and IKEA superstores. A close examination of the Open Street Map map shows that this new stop involves quite a long walk to IKEA and is not as convenient for M1 as a stop half way between the two superstores would have been!

The other disturbing factor about the extension is the cost. Was it really necessary to route nearly 1 km of the line in ‘cut and cover’ tunnel? However, the new tram depot will allow ZTM to dispose of its old tram depot at ul. Gajowa which will hopefully offset some of the costs.

Artist visualisation of the new loop at Franowo courtesy Infrastruktura Euro Poznan, PxM Projekt Poludnie, autostrada II Sp. z o.o.

(Click image to see the remainder of the artist visualisations produced for the extension.)


Poznan – 115 m PLN PST extension signed

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Tram station at Dworzec Zachodni adjacent to the main line station – Poznan Glowny. Artist’s impression courtesy Urzad Miasta Poznania.

On Tuesday, 9 August a 115 m PLN contract for the extension of Poznan’s Szybki Tramwaj (PST) was signed between infrastructure company, EURO Poznan 2012, and the Krakow-based civil engineering contractor Grupa ZUE. The Mayor of Poznan, Miroslaw Kruszyński, attended the signing ceremony.

The 2 km extension will extend the grade separated ‘fast tram’ route from Most Teatralny to Dworzec Zachodni, allowing trams to by-pass the frequently congested crossroads along ul. Rosevelta at: ul Dabrowskiego, ul. Swiety Marcin and most Dworcowy.

The project was placed on the list of individual key projects of special importance for the development of the region by the Wielkopolska Provincial Government and will benefit from European Regional Development Fund assistance to the tune of 42 775 PLN.

Tram station behind the historic Dworzec Zachodni station buildings. Artist impression courtesy Urzad Miasta Poznania.

The route of the PST extension to Dworzec Zachodni. Map courtesy Urzad Miasta Poznania.

A ride in Poznan’s ‘fast tram’ from its northern terminus at the Jana III Sobieskiego housing estate to the link with the city’s street running tramways at Most Teatralny. YouTube video by motorniczy1989.

Lodz interurban trams face extinction

Friday, 1 July 2011

Three-bogie 803N articulated tram working MKT service 46 at Plac Wolnosci on 30 January 2010. These trams were built by Konstal in the early 1970s and rebuilt with a new body style in the MKT workshops at Helenowek in the late 1990s. Photo BTWT.

Lodz’s attractive interurban tram services – 43 running some 20 km westwards from Stoki on the eastern outskirts of Lodz to Lutomiersk and 46 running 37 km from Chocianowice on the city’s southern boundary northwards to Ozorkow have been given 6 months to live by Lodz’s mayor Hanna Zdanowska.

Three-bogie GT6 articulated tram working TP service 43 at Plac Wolnosci on 30 January 2010. GT6 trams were built by Düwag from 1956 onwards and 8 units – after being withdrawn from service in Bielefeld, Germany in 1990 – were bought by MPK Lodz. After the interurban lines were split off from MPK, these units was assigned to TP. Photo BTWT.

On 28 June, Zdanowska gave 6 months notice that she will be withdrawing Lodz from the agreements which govern the operation of Tramwaje Podmiejskie (owned by Lodz, Konstantynow and Lutomiersk) and Miedzygmina Komunikacja Tramwajowa (owned by Lodz, Zgierz (Town), Zgierz (District) and Ozorkow).

The official reason given for her action is that Zdanowska wants to force a take over the operation and revenue stream of the interurban services by the city’s tram operator, Miejskie Przedsiebiorstwo Komunikacyjne, leaving the remaining local councils to pick up the bill for maintaining the track.

Residents suffering from rush hour grid-lock on the road to Aleksandrow (services were cut back to the Lodz city boundary in 1991) will recall the story current at the time that local councillors were promised certain favours by a rival bus company!


Vintage hat trick

Sunday, 19 September 2010

To the accompaniment of the Lodz MPK brass band, actor Marcel Szytenchelm relaunches the restored 1928 ‘Sanok’ tram at the former inter-urban tram station in Lodz on 31 July 2010. Video by brite77.

Yesterday was a good day; I had a phone call from Tomasz Adamkiewicz, would I like to go from a tram ride? You bet I would. Tomek owns a number of vintage tram cars which he has rescued and restored to their past glory. Which tram would he be showing off today? We arranged that I should join him at Radogoszcz, a location difficult to mistake – a tall memorial marks the spot where, in January 1945, the retreating Germans set fire to a factory building, burning alive some 2,000 prisoners.

I waited at the Radogoszcz tram stop. A selection of Lodz trams rattled past. There were plenty of modernized Konstal 805Nas, a couple of new PESA 122Ns and an ex Fryburgu Düwag GT8 running the Miedzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa inter-urban service to Ozorkow. But none of these was Tomek’s tram. At last a green ancient four wheeler came into view, going like the blazes – the 1928 ‘Sanok’. Later Tomek was to admit that the only non authentic parts used in its restoration were its the motors. The original ‘Sanoks’ had a top speed of 35 km/h (22 mph). Tomek’s ‘hotted-up’ version is capable of 60 km/h (38 mph)!

Tomek found the Sanok in a garden in Wisniowa Gora near Lodz some 11 years ago. By then it had lost its chassis. He bought the body for 250 zloty. It cost him another 350 zloty to move it to the MPK tram depot at Helenowek, where he had be given permission to store the vehicle. Working as a MPK fitter during the day, he worked on his beloved Sanok at night, gradually collecting or making the missing parts.

The first part of our journey was on the route of the realaid LRT (Lodz ‘fast tram’) route running along reserved track alongside ul. Zgierska and then down the centre of ul Zachodnia. Then Tomek hopped out and changed the points at the 3-way junction with ul. Legionow. With a squeal of flanges we ran through the south-east curve at the junction and were running down the middle of a cobbled street. The ‘Sanok’ was in its natural element. Film makers looking for pre-war Polish street scenes need look no further.

We ran across ul. Wlokniarzy, under the viaduct carrying the Lodz Kaliska to Kutno railway line, and alongide the right-hand side of ul. Legionow down to Zdrowie. Here a single line of track carries on invitingly to the East – the Lodzkie Tramwaje Podmiejskie inter-urban line, but Tomek has had a row with the Tramwaje Podmiejskie over some vintage trams that the latter had sold and our ‘running rights’ did not include the track to Konstantynow and Lutomiersk. So Tomek got out again and changed the points to run down the short spur to the Zdrowie loop. We ran back to ul Legionow and here I made my farewells to Tomek and waited for my lift.

By curious coincidence my next journey, this time by car, took me on to Lutomiersk. Here I had come to view a brand new house built from logs! Such construction is actually cheaper and healthier than modern breeze block, cement and brick technology. It took the contractor some 2 months to precisely shape all the wooden logs. Amazingly the actually construction of the walls and roof on site only took three days.

While standing back from the house I saw a farmer driving a traditional horse and cart. Nothing unusual about that in Poland, you may say, but this cart was pulled by two horses. The three actors in yesterdays drama came from completely different backgrounds: Tomek the tram fitter, doing extra overtime to pay for the parts he needs to restore his collection of vintage trams; the couple of college lecturers who decided to build a wooden house, the young farmer who could afford a second-hand tractor, but prefers to employ horses. All of them are making a statement about preserving and celebrating all that was best from the past. There is hope for Poland yet.


As part of Lodz’s celebration of Dni Publicznego Transportu (Public Transport Days) Tomasz Adamkiewicz’s vintage ‘Sanok’ is running a special ‘H1’ public service from 16 – 22 September. You can view the timetable details here and here.

MPK Krakow completes EU projects for 300m PLN

Friday, 27 August 2010

Promotional video for MPK Krakow by WYG International

MPK Krakow, the municipal transport operator in Krakow, is celebrating the successful completion of an EU project worth 300 million PLN. The project, ‘Integrated Public Transport in the Krakow Conurbation’, has helped MPK to build a bus station at Krowodrza Gorka, modernise the track from the Kamienna loop to Krowodrza Gorka, and purchase new trams. The EU conrtribution came from the EU Structural Fund Programme Infrastructure and the Environment.

Now a further 185 million PLN project has been signed of which will allow the construction of a new tram line to the roundabout at ul. Grzegorzeckiego Street to Golikowka, with the construction of a 1 km length of a new street, ul. Kuklinski, the rebuilding of ul. Dluga and the purchase of 24 low-floor 32m long air-conditioned ‘Flexicity’ trams from Bombadier.

Perhaps MPK Krakow show consider hiring out some of its EU funding specialists to clear up the mess at PKP PLK?

EU8N tram built by MPK Krakow from Vienna E6 and C6 components

While MPK Krakow have exhibited considerable skill in coping with the complex demands of EU project,s their own engineering department have shown considerable skill in creating a new tram from recycled tram components. MPK Krakow and Wiener Linien have been cooperating for many years and Vienna E1 and C3 cars have been running in the city since 2003. In 2009 MPK bought a Vienna E6 motor unit and C6 driving trailer. The cars used to rum on the Vienna semi-metro in a E6+C6+C6+E6 formation. A new low body passenger section to sit between a E6 and a C6 unit was manufactured by Polish bus body company, Autosan S.A. of Sanok. The two ex Vienna vehicles were specially adapted to accept the new articulated section and extensive trials were held in 2009 and 2010. The new vehicle, classed EU8N, proved a great success and was officially presented to the public on 18 June 2010 during the 135 anniversary celebrations of municipal transport in Krakow. MPK Krakow have bought 25 E6 and C6 pairs from which they plan to build 25 EU8N vehicles.


French tram renaissance

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Mulhouse trams June 2007, Video Dave Spencer, PMP Transport Films

(trailer for PMP DVD 1512 –

SPIEGEL ONLINE has just published a very positive assessment of the tram revival that is taking place in France. Here is just a taster.

Trams are enjoying a comeback in France. From Nantes to Marseille, city planners are building new, high-tech streetcar lines as central elements in urban redevelopment. And they haven’t forgotten any of the French flair the world has come to love.

It’s bright yellow with black stripes—like some kind of futuristic tiger on rails—and it runs through Mulhouse at eight-minute intervals like a streak of light. This city in France’s Alsace region was once a leader in the industrial revolution, but it is now visibly struggling with structural change. The new tram system has brought it fresh pride and and a new sense of self-confidence.

To make way for the new network, which will connect five neighbouring municipalities, streets, pavements and bike paths had to be thoroughly overhauled. Now trees have been planted, and the strips of land on which the tracks run have been given fresh green turf. When the city was awarding contracts for the two tramlines, they went looking for artistic flair—on the rails themselves, though, rather than in the stations.”Residents had a say in all the projects,” says Deputy Mayor, Samuel-Weis. “They helped decide on the shape of the trams’ driver cabins and voted on color choices. The project was popular even before the first tram left the station.”

Its launch has been a tremendous success in the city. Many residents now consider riding the tram cool and comfortable. “It’s punctual, practical and safe,” a young mother says, extolling the new system’s virtues. Citing examples like station platforms that come up to the height of the tram doors, she says that it’s great for people with children. “Got a baby carriage?” the mother asks. “No problem! It’s not like the nightmare at bus stops and subway stations.”

The French are hoping the renaissance of the tram will serve as an antidote to traffic jams and gridlock—and not just in Mulhouse. In almost two dozen French cities, trams have become the hallmark of urban transformation. Nantes and Grenoble were the first cities to bring back what many had long considered to be an outmoded form of transportation. Since then, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Marseille and even the southern part of Paris have also welcomed back urban rail lines. Lille and Lyon are looking into the idea; Caen, Brest, Nancy, and Toulon are in the planning stages. Throughout France, the network of tracks is set to grow to 576 kilometers (358 miles) by 2015.

Click here for the complete SPIGIEL ONLINE article. Highly recommended!

Note that trams have been reintroduced in almost two dozen French cities! In the UK, the Government has throttled back demand for tram systems from cities like Bristol, Leeds and Portsmouth and there are only half a dozen tram systems operating in the UK.

Current UK tram systems (by date of opening)

  1. Blackpool (1885) 11 miles (18km)
  2. Manchester Metrolink (1992) 23 miles (37 km)
  3. Sheffield Supertram (1994) 18 miles (29 km)
  4. Midland Metro (1999) 13 miles (20 km)
  5. Croydon Tramlink (2000) 18.5 miles (30 km)
  6. Nottingham Express Transit (2004) 9 miles (14 km)

Total 92.5 miles (149 km)

Looks nice, but…

Friday, 18 July 2008

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!