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Trams in Liège

Tramway de Liège
Overview
StatusUnder construction
LocaleLiège, Belgium
Termini
Stations23[1]
Service
TypeLight rail
Operator(s)TEC[2]
Depot(s)Centre de maintenance et remisage[1]
Rolling stockCAF Urbos
History
Planned openingJanuary 2025[3]
Technical
Line length11.7 km (7.3 mi)[1]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed19–20 km/h[4]

Trams in Liège, Belgium, date back to horsecars which were replaced by electric trams starting in 1893. Trams in Liège were abandoned by the end of 1967. However, trams will make a comeback in the form of the Liège tramway (French: tramway de Liège) in 2025.

The Liège tramway is a light-rail line under construction to connect the communities of Sclessin (fr) and Coronmeuse (fr) along the Meuse passing by Liège-Guillemins railway station and Place Saint-Lambert within the city. The line will also have a branch to Bressoux (fr) where the line's maintenance and storage center is located.[1] As of May 2024, the line is expected to be put into service in January 2025.[3] The line will be operated in a public–private partnership, whereby the private partner Tram'Ardent maintains the trams and infrastructure and the publicly owned TEC operates the trams.[2]

History

Early years

Trams in front of the post office in Liège (1909)
The tram network in Liège (1939)

The first electric tram service in Liège, which was also the first in Belgium, opened to the public on 9 August 1893, connecting the northern Coronmeuse district (fr) with Herstal, to the east of the city. Only 200 metres (660 ft) of the line actually ran in the city centre. On 22 October 1896, the two principal horse-powered tramlines were converted to electric power, forming an electric tramline that crossed the city centre. In 1897, a line was added connecting Chênée (then considered a separate town) with the city centre, and Angleur received a tram connection in 1905. A fourth line was also installed that year for the World's Fair in Liège.

An aspect of tram operations in Liège was the large number of competing operators. By the start of the 20th century, there had been some consolidation of the businesses involved, but in 1905, there were still six different organisations operating trams in the city, some in public ownership and some privately owned. In addition to the electric trams, the lines were also used by steam trams at this time. It was only in 1927 that the Liège tram network was "unified".[5]

Decline and closure

The tram collection at the Liège Public Transport Museum [fr] contains numerous tramcars that predate the Second World War and some that predate the First World War, which were decommissioned only in the mid 1960s.[6] Evidence is sparse of any trams having been added to the city's fleet after the 1930s, although most of the tramcars were subject to at least one major overhaul or rebuild exercise during their service.[6] In view of the challenging topography (at least by Belgian standards) of Liège, and the visible absence of investment, the last tram services were withdrawn in November 1967.[2]

Metro aborted

Major investment in a Liège underground Metro system was envisaged and construction eventually began towards the end of the 1970s. A tunnel was started, but the Metro never saw the light of day. The tunnel section that was completed enjoys enduring notoriety as one of Belgium's white elephants. It is used for storage.[7]

Return

A CAF Urbos mock-up for the new tramway, displayed in the Liège Public Transport Museum

In 2008, regional political leaders generally agreed on reintroducing trams to Liège in order to address the city's traffic saturation issues, particularly in its low lying central parts by the river Meuse.[8] Extensive investigation and public consultation followed, before the first line's route was fixed in October 2011.[9] The regional government of Wallonia gave the final go-ahead at the end of 2011, although at that stage, it was stated that further discussion remained necessary on project funding.[10] In the end, the decision was taken to proceed on the basis of a public–private partnership, inspired by agreements used for recent investments for the London Underground.

Revised plan

The line was originally planned to be 19.1 km (11.9 mi) long, comprising a 17.8 km (11.1 mi) length from Seraing to Herstal and a further 1.3 km (0.81 mi) for a short branch connection to Bressoux (fr). The plan was revised to build the line in stages initially only from Sclessin (fr) to Coronmeuse, serving 21 tram stops, covering approximately 11 km (6.8 mi). The projected cost of €315 million compares with an estimated cost of €484 million for building the entire line at once. The decision not to proceed at once with the full line drew criticism.[11][12]

Third Eurostat rejection

By August 2013, tenders for the construction had been received from three consortia. That was narrowed down to two on 3 April 2014, when the remaining contenders were invited to submit their final bids for 15 September 2014. The final decision was announced on 10 December 2014, in favour of the so-called "Mobiliège" consortium (ALSTOM – BAM PPP PGGM – DG Infra).

The signing of the DBFM (Design, Build, Finance, Maintain) contract was planned for the spring of 2015. After a preparatory studies phase, construction was to start in the autumn. However, in March 2015, Eurostat, the European body for the control of accounting standards, reviewed the financing dossier for the Liège tram, and in July 2015, for the second time and following changes to the file, issued a negative opinion.

On 16 January 2016, the City of Liège announced that it has received a negative opinion from Eurostat for the third time, and launched a citizen petition in favor of the tram.[13]

Second public contract and award to Tram'Ardent

A new call for tenders was published in March 2016, and by 5 October 2017, two bids had been received, from Alstom in France and Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) in Spain. On 10 February 2017, Eurostat approved the financial package.[14] The final choice of the manufacturer should have been made in the first quarter of 2018. However, the transfer of the TEC group to a Walloon Transport Operator (OTW) entailed a further postponement. On 19 September 2018, Opérateur de transport de Wallonie (OTW – new name of the SRWT) awarded the contract to the Tram'Ardent consortium comprising CAF, which will supply the Urbos vehicles, Colas, which will build the infrastructure, and DIF, which will provide financing. As part of a Public-Private Partnership, Tram'Ardent will finance, design and build the tramway, and maintain its trams and infrastructure for 31 years. TEC, a brand name for the OTW, will operate the trams.[2][15]

By 2019, construction of the line was underway, but would experience various setbacks and delays.[16] In 2023, the region of Wallonia would pay Tram'Ardent €79 million to compensate it for expenses related to COVID-19, which delayed the project by 2 years and 3 months.[3]

On October 9, 2023, the first run of a tram outside the depot took place. The tram made a test run from Bressoux to Coronmeuse, the line's northern terminus. The test run was mostly carried out a low speed, but at one point during the trip, the tram accelerated to 50 km/h in order to test its brakes. This was a first step in testing all 20 delivered trams.[16]

In early 2024, the government of Wallonia budgeted 355 million euros to extend the tram line from Coronmeuse to Place Licourt, and from Standard (Sclessin) to Gare de Jemeppe. With the extensions, the line would be 17.5 kilometres (10.9 mi) long and have 31 stops in total.[17]

Modern tramway

Description

Tramway map
image icon Tramway de Liège

The Liège tramway will consist of a single line running roughly north–south along the west side of the Meuse River between the communities of Sclessin (fr) and Coronmeuse (fr). There is also a 1.3 km (0.81 mi) branch crossing the Atlas Bridge (fr) to the east side of the Meuse to access the tram depot in Bressoux (fr). The line will be 11.7 km (7.3 mi) long and have 23 stops of which 21 will be on the west side of the Meuse and two along the east-side branch. Nine of the 23 stops will be transfer hubs (French: pôle d'échange) providing bus connections and, in 3 cases, SNCB railway connections (Gare des Guillemins, Gare de Saint-Lambert (fr) at Place Saint-Lambert stop, Gare de Bressoux (fr) at Liège Expo stop).[1] Stops are spaced approximately 450 metres (1,480 ft) apart. Two stops, Standard in Sclessin and Liège Expo in Bressoux, will have park and ride facilities for 1436 vehicles.[2]

There are 3 bridges that carry the tramway: Pont Atlas, Pont des Modeleurs and Pont des Tilleurs. The tramway will cross 79 signalized intersections. Three sections of the line will not have an overhead wire: between the Général Leman and Blonden stops, between the Opéra stop and Place des Déportés and on the Atlas Bridge.[1] Between Place Saint-Lambert and Place des Déportés (near Pont Maghin), tracks branch into two routes, a possibly bidirectional route via Féronstrée, and a unidirectional route (direction Coronmeuse) via La Batte.[18][1]

The rush-hour frequency of the line will be every 4½ minutes. The average speed of the trams will be 19–20 km/h as compared to 10–13 km/h for buses in the downtown area.[4]

The line will use 20 seven-section CAF Urbos trams, equipped with onboard batteries to operate on the three sections of the line that have no overhead wire. The trams will be 45.4-metre (149 ft) long,[2] 2.65-metre (8 ft 8 in) wide and 3.60-metre (11.8 ft) high, and weigh about 64 tonnes. There are eight double doors on each side of the tram. Each tram has a capacity for about 310 passengers including 62 seated. There are also 3 spaces for wheelchairs or baby carriages, and 2 spaces for visually impaired people with room under the seat for a guide dog.[4]

The Maintenance and Storage Centre (French: Centre de maintenance et remisage – CDMR) is located just beyond the Liège Expo stop. Having an area of 23,100 square metres (249,000 sq ft), the facility has 5 major structures. The service station building, with an area of 590 square metres (6,400 sq ft) and one interior track, contains a sand loading station, a pit and overhead catwalk for inspections and a car wash. The maintenance workshop building has an area of 4,400 square metres (47,000 sq ft) and 4 interior tracks to accommodate 4 trams simultaneously: 2 tracks perched on stilts over a pit, 1 track for grinding worn wheels and 1 track for testing bogies. The tram storage shed has 5 tracks to store up to 25 trams but could be expanded for 40 trams. The operations building has office space for TEC staff and a central command post for both tram and bus operations. An adjacent park-and-ride garage has space for 771 vehicles.[19]

Future expansion

In a future phase, the line will be extended both north and south on the west side of the Meuse increasing the line's length to 19.1 km (11.9 mi).[1] A hypothetical line 2 could be built later between Ans and Vaux-sous-Chèvremont (Chaudfontaine).[20][21]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Tout savoir sur le tracé". Le tram (in French). Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "First CAF Urbos arrives in Liège". Tramways & Urban transit. July 18, 2022. Archived from the original on August 19, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Nouveau calendrier pour le tram de Liège : vers une mise en service en janvier 2025". rtbf.be (in French). 23 June 2023.
  4. ^ a b c "Le tram, en quelques chiffres". Le tram (in French). Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  5. ^ "Motrice 43 .... TRAMWAYS EST-OUEST DE LIEGE ET EXTENSIONS (E.O.)". Musée des Transports en commun du pays de Liège, Liège. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Motrice B45 .... RAILWAYS ECONOMIQUES DE LIEGE-SERAING ET EXTENSIONS (R.E.L.S.E.)" (in French). Musée des Transports en commun du pays de Liège, Liège. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Le métro de Liège (1986)". RTBF. 4 August 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  8. ^ "Quel tram pour Liège?, Conférence de presse de l'ASBL urbAgora" (PDF) (in French). urbAgora, Liège. 22 July 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  9. ^ M. Gretry (21 October 2011). "Liège: le tracé du futur tram a été adopté" (in French). RTBF. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Une décision sur le tram à Liège" (in French). TramLiege.be. 22 December 2011. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  11. ^ Philippe Bodeux (22 December 2011). ""Un tracé du tram réduit: du délire!"" (in French). Le Soir, Bruxelles. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  12. ^ "Le réseau de tram verra bien le jour à Liège: voici les détails du projet". RTL (in French). 10 February 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Eurostat recale le financement du tram de Liège - La Ville de Liège lance une pétition en faveur du". Site-LeVif-FR (in French). 16 January 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Bonne nouvelle pour le tram de Liège". L'Echo (in French). 10 February 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  15. ^ "DIF consortium reaches financial close on Liège Tram PPP". DIF. 31 January 2019. Archived from the original on 10 June 2023.
  16. ^ a b "Le tram de Liège a effectué sa première sortie" (in French). Le Soir. 10 October 2023.
  17. ^ "Tram à Liège : c'est officiel, l'extension vers Seraing est sauvée". rtbf.be (in French). 1 February 2024.
  18. ^ "Tram de Liège en 3D". YouTube (in French). TEC. 14 June 2022.
  19. ^ "Découvrez le Centre de Maintenance et de Remisage du futur Tram de Liège". YouTube (in French). TEC. 29 October 2021.
  20. ^ "Un tram à Liège dans moins de 10 ans". RTL Info (in French). R. T. L. Newmedia. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  21. ^ "Un tracé sinueux pour monter à Ans en passant par Glain". Le Soir (in French). Retrieved 27 September 2020.
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Trams in Liège
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