Bergen Light Rail
|Bergen Light Rail|
Tram 203 at the Byparken terminus
|Owner||Hordaland County Municipality through Bybanen AS|
|Transit type||Light rail|
|Number of lines||1|
|Number of stations||20|
|Began operation||22 June 2010|
|Operator(s)||Fjord1 Partner on behalf of Skyss|
|Train length||33 m (108 ft)|
|System length||13.4 km (8.3 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Minimum radius of curvature||25 m (82 ft)|
|Electrification||750 V overhead wire|
|Average speed||28 km/h (17 mph)|
|Top speed||70 km/h (43 mph)|
Bergen Light Rail (Norwegian: Bybanen) is a light rail system in Bergen, Norway. The first two stages of the project is a twenty-station stretch between the city center and Lagunen Storsenter, where the first 15 station and 9.8-kilometre (6.1 mi) stretch opened in 2010, and the second 3.6-kilometre (2.2 mi) stretch from Nesttun to Lagunen opened in June 2013. Construction on a third stretch from Lagunen to Bergen Airport, Flesland is planned to open in 2016. Further plans for the project involve to Åsane and Storavatnet.
Plans for rail transit have existed since the 1970s, following the 1965 closing of the Bergen Tramway. A rapid transit design was first discarded, and in the 1990s a light rail line was proposed. The final decision to start construction was made in 2005. The first stage of the line is being built by the municipality, with financing from the state and the toll road ring, based on the Bergen Program. Ownership, maintenance and further extensions of lines and vehicles will be the responsibility of Hordaland County Municipality through their wholly owned limited company Bybanen AS. Operation is done after public service obligation contracts issued by the county public transport authority Skyss. From 2010 to 2017, the system is operated by Fjord1 Partner, who operates the system's sixteen Variotrams.
The first public transport in Bergen was the Bergen Tramway, which operated between 1897 and 1965. However, the tramway was limited to the inner parts of the city and did not reach the suburbs. The city council therefore decided to close the tramway, arguing that the future lay in private cars and public transport provided with diesel buses. However, some of the tram lines were replaced by the Bergen trolleybus. In the 1960s, the removal on restriction on car sales gave more traffic than the roads could handle and consequently both buses and cars began increasingly being stuck in rush-hour queues. The municipality and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration started looking to rectify the situation by building a ring road around the city, as well as alternative means of public transport.
Prior to the shortening of the mainline Bergen Line with the Ulriken Tunnel, the Bergen–Nesttun Line was an important commuter rail service, feeding suburban residents from Fana into the city center. In 1917, the section was the most heavily trafficked railway in the country, featuring a travel time between 20 and 27 minutes. There were up to 27 trains per day, of which 5 continued to Garnes. In 1918, the line was proposed upgraded to double track and electrified—the latter was completed in 1954. The same year, annual ridership were down to 870,000 passengers. After the opening of the Ulriken Tunnel, the commuter trains were kept for six months, until the last trip ran on 31 January 1965.
During the 1970s, plans had existed for an extensive rapid transit system in Bergen, with an underground section in the city center. Inspired by the successful Oslo Metro that had opened in 1966, similar plans were developed for Bergen. The proposed network was close to the current long-term plans for the light rail system, and consisted of three branches from the city center, extending to Flaktveit, Olsvik and the airport. Four-car trains would operate on a ten-minute headway. The suggestion was discussed by the city council in 1973, but no decision was taken. As an alternative, expansion of the national railway from Bergen Station to Eidsvåg, Åsane and Nesttun was proposed. Fast commuter trains could then be supplemented with buses.
During the 1980s and 1990s, a toll ring was constructed around Bergen to finance a massive investment in motorways. This included the European Route E39 north and south of the center, the road to the airport, as well as west to Loddefjord and Storavatnet. Bridges were constructed to Lindås, Askøy and Sotra, and large parking garages were built in the city center. Despite this, congestion continued, and it was no better in the 2000s than in the 1970s. Proposals to build bus lanes and traffic signal preemption was disregarded by the Public Roads Administration.
In 1995, the municipal bus company Bergen Sporvei made a proposal to establish what they called the Lightning Tram. It would run from Varden in Fyllingsdalen via a tunnel to Møhlenpris and the city center, then make a 120° turn and return along the route of the Bergen trolleybus to Birkelundstoppen. The same year, the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature proposed a more extensive system, the Environmental Tram, which much closer resembles the current design proposals. From the city center, it would run northwards via Åsane to Flaktveit and southwards via Rådal to the airport (but not via Nesttun). The southern section would have branches from Hop to Nesttun and Midttun, and from Minde westwards to Fyllingsdalen and Loddefjord. Later, Bergen Sporvei's successor, Gaia Trafikk, proposed building a bus rapid transit.
The plans launched by the city administration closest resembled those of the Environmental Tram, but with slight changes. The initial plans involved a line from the city center via Nesttun to the airport at Flesland. It became part of a political compromise, the Bergen Program, which ensured a number of road investments at the same time as the light rail system, all financed through the toll ring. However, a lack of funds made it necessary to only build the line to Nesttun, instead of all the way to the airport. The initial decision was taken by Bergen City Council on 13 March 2000, in the Parliament of Norway in 2002, and with the financing secured, by the city council in 2005. Only the Progress Party and the Pensioners' Party voted against light rail. Forty percent is financed by the state, while the remainder is paid by the county, the municipality and through the toll ring.
The arguments for light rail were mainly related to the environment, urban development and reduction in road congestion. The light rail service is estimated to give an increase in the use of public transport from Fana, reducing both local and global pollution. The current road systems do not have capacity for further traffic growth, and any increase in public transport would need to be taken along the light-rail routes on buses—this would give higher operating costs for public transport or higher investment costs for roads. Around the stations, high-density commercial and residential centers can be established. Opponents of the project argued that it is unfair that public transport be funded by car drivers through toll roads. Protests from people in northern and western areas of the city have been risen, since they are paying for the system, but will not receive the benefits. Another issue has been the speed—the line to Nesttun has 15 stops in 10 kilometers (6 mi), giving an average speed of 28 km/h (17 mph). For people living south of Nesttun, this will give a longer travel time to the city center than with direct buses that do not make intermediate stops.
The naming of the stations caused local debate. A draft for names were made by the municipal administration and then sent to the borough councils in Fana, Årstad and Bergenhus. Four names were changed: Nonneseteren from Jernbanen, Florida from Strømmen, Brann stadion from Nymark and Hop from Troldhaugen. Brann stadion and Troldhaugen were afterwards considered by the municipal administration, because they could be in violation with the Place Name Act. The general rule is to use the place name where the station is located, but naming after institutions or facilities near-by is not permitted, unless it is in the immediate vicinity. Brann stadion (named for the football venue) was declared a border-line case, but within the rules, while Troldhaugen was not permitted because the area is not in the vicinity of the station.
The first construction work commenced in August 2007, when Pastasentralen was demolished to make room for a temporary bus terminal that would allow Kaigaten to be closed for construction. The contracts for building the line were awarded to Svein Boasson, NCC Construction, Fyllingen Maskinstasjon and Veidekke Entreprenør. The contract for laying the tracks was awarded to Baneservice.
Construction along the route started in January 2008. To pass over Strømmen, a fourth Nygård Bridge was built for cars, and the oldest was upgraded and used by the light rail line. Several places the road needed to be dug up to remove pipes and cables. In November 2009, Gulating Court of Appeal ruled that the power company BKK had to pay 80 million Norwegian krone (NOK) for the moving of power lines, and could not charge the project office for the costs. By June 2008, the first tracks had been laid.
Four companies bid for the initial public service obligation to operate the line: Fjord1 Partner, Norges Statsbaner, Tide and Veolia Transport Norway. On 3 April 2009, the public transport agency Skyss announced that Fjord1 Partner, a joint venture between Fjord1 Nordvestlandske and Keolis, had won the auction. Fjord1 Partner received 324 applications for their 26 jobs as drivers and 10 jobs as traffic controllers.
Along with the establishment of the light rail service, the public transport in Bergen underwent several other changes. The public transport authority Skyss was established to manage routes and market the public transport, which would be operated by private companies based on public service obligations. At the same time, the electronic ticket system Skysskortet was introduced. When the light rail line begins operating at its intended capacity, the bus routes in Bergen will change, and there will no longer be north–south services. Instead, buses from the north and south will both continue westwards.
Because of delays from Stadler's subcontractors, five instead of eight trams were available when the line opened on 22 June 2010. Skyss had planned to operate with a ten-minute headway until August, but was instead forced to plan for a fifteen-minute headway until 16 August. To compensate, none of the parallel bus routes will stop running along the route until then. On 7 June, two trams collided with each other at low speed at Byparken, causing a derailment and forced the two trams to be repaired. This caused the summer schedule to be reduced to a 30-minute headway. From 1 November, the line started running every six minutes during the rush hour. On 22 June, the line was officially opened by Queen Sonja of Norway.
The 9.8-kilometre (6.1 mi) line runs from the city center to Nesttun. The northernmost part of the line, Byparken Terminal, is a transit mall located at the heart of the city center and has correspondence with all buses serving the city center. The line runs south along Kaigaten, with the station Nonneseteren serving the railway station and Bystasjonen serving Bergen Bus Station. Southwards, the line runs in a grass right-of-way, serving the stations Nygård and Florida. These serve various campuses of the University of Bergen and Bergen University College. The line passes over Nygård Bridge before coming to Danmarks plass—the only island platform on the system. In this area, the track is on maize, a type of surface that allows emergency vehicles to drive safely, but makes the surface look unsafe for cars.
The line passes the depot at Kronstad before reaching the station Kronstad. From here, the line follows Inndalsveien, where the station Brann stadion will among other places serve the football venue Brann Stadion. The station Wergeland is located at the mouth of the 1.1-kilometer (0.68 mi) Fageråsen Tunnel. The tunnel is S-shaped, had a 6.0% gradient and a curve radius of 150 meters (490 ft). From the southern exit, the line changes to a conventional railway track with ballast, allowing the trains to operate at 80 km/h (50 mph). The next stations are Sletten, Slettebakken and Fantoft, the later serving a large complex of student dorms. Southwards lays the 1.2-kilometer (0.75 mi) Fantoft Tunnel, followed by the station Paradis. The line continues along the inlet Nesttunvannet to Hop, along the former right-of-way that belonged to Bergen's first motorway. Nesttun Terminal will be the terminus until the extension to Rådal is finished. Nesttun has three tracks, allowing defect trams to be stored there, and allow multiple trains to wait at the station.
The plans as of 2010 involve building five stages. After the completion of the stages from the city center to Nesttun, the line will be expanded southwards from Nesttun to Rådal at Lagunen Storsenter. Construction began in January 2011, and running in its own right-of-way parallel to the existing road;, the track was completed in October 2012. The first test run to Lagunen was conducted 6 December 2012, and the line was opened to the public on June 22, 2013.
An expansion from Rådal via Kokstad to Bergen Airport, Flesland would run entirely in its own right-of-way. Both Sørås and Indre Steinsvik have experienced a rapid housing construction, without a corresponding increase of public transport. Further out is a large corporate center with many of Bergen's largest employers, such as Telenor, Statoil and BKK. The area was built without a sufficient road and public transport system, and has among the most road congestion in the urban area. Although the light rail line will serve the airport, the current airport coaches will operate somewhat faster, but for a much higher fare, to the city center. Building the light rail line to Flesland is therefore more to supplement the coaches and an offer of cheaper service for locals and employees at the airport. Another incentive to build to Flesland is that there is sufficient free land which will allow a large depot to be constructed there. After the line has opened to Rådal, there will be insufficient space at Kronstad to house additional trams. The work with the regulation plans have come the furthest with this extension, and the line could open as early as 2015.
Plans for the expansion northwards from the city center to Åsane involve either building the system to replace many of the local buses operating in Sandviken, or make the light rail line an express service. If the latter is chosen, the line will bypass Bryggen in a tunnel and make few stops before Åsane. An important stop mid-way is the Norwegian School of Economics. The terminus will probably be Åsane Senter or Nyborg; the former shopping center has set aside areas for a station. At Åsane, a major bus terminal would allow connections to the northern parts of Bergen, suburbs further north and areas in Nordhordland. An important political argument for prioritizing this line is to spread out the investments to all parts of the city, since the line is being financed by taxpayers and car-users throughout the city.
The third planned expansion runs from the city center southwards, east of the Center–Nesttun Line, serving Haukeland University Hospital. It then heads west, intersecting with the first line at Kronstad, runs through a tunnel before serving the areas of Fyllingsdalen. The line can use parts of the Norwegian National Rail Administration's right of way from the city center to Kronstad, and would feature a station under the hospital, which is Western Norway's largest work place. It is not planned an extension to Loddefjord and Storavatnet from Fyllingsdalen at this time because the time of travel will be much higher than the direct bus line using the highway to the city center.
A project group with members of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and the National Rail Administration have proposed that instead of rebuilding the Ulriken Tunnel to double track, a new double-track light rail tunnel could be built from the city center to Arna. This would allow the light rail line to replace the two-station Bergen Commuter Rail service, and give better access to the city center for people from Arna. Several politicians, including the majority in Hordaland County Council, have stated that they in the long run they want the light rail line extended northwards to Knarvik and westwards to Straume and Kleppestø.
The building of the line is the responsibility of Bergen Light Rail Project Office, an agency that is part of the municipal government of Bergen. The physical infrastructure and trams are owned by Bybanen AS, a limited company wholly owned by Hordaland County Municipality. This company is responsible for maintenance of the right-of-way and the vehicles, and for all further extension of the line. Subsidies to the operation of the line are granted through Skyss, a county agency that also organizes the bus and ferry transport in Hordaland. The operations of the trams are provided based on public service obligation contracts. From 2010 to 2017, with the possibility for a two-year extension, the light rail line will be operated by Fjord1 Partner, a joint venture between Fjord1 Nordvestlandske and Keolis. Stadler has the responsibility for maintenance of the trams for the first seven years, as part of the purchase contract.
The system will be operated on a five-minute headway by all-stop and express trains, with a ten-minute headway in off-peak times and a one-hour headway at night. Travel time from Byparken to Nesttun is 21 minutes, giving an average speed of 28 km/h (17 mph). In 2010, the price of a single ticket is NOK 25. The same year, the cost of operating the light rail line for half a year is NOK 36 million. Tickets are valid with free transfer to other buses in Bergen.
In 2007, the Planning Office ordered twelve Variotrams from Stadler Rail, with an additional four on option. The first tram arrived in Bergen 7 December 2009, and was used for testing in the months leading up to the opening. Before the light rail line opened, three more trams were in place. The trams are 32.180 m (105.58 ft) long and 2.65 meters (8 ft 8 in) wide; dead weight is 35.7 tonnes (35.1 long tons; 39.4 short tons). The trams have five articulated sections, and are expandable with another two modules to a length of 42 meters (138 ft), should higher capacity be necessary in the future. All stations are dimensioned for extended trams.
There is a slightly elevated driver's cabin at each end. Eight motors provide a total of 360 kW (480 hp) for three bogies. This allows a maximum speed of 70 km/h (43 mph), though this is limited to 50 km/h (31 mph) in city streets, and 25 km/h (16 mph) at the depots. Acceleration is 1.25 m/s2 (4.13 ft/s2), and they are capable of a 7.0% slope. Current is collected via a pantograph, at 750 volts direct current. Each tram is sufficiently powerful to haul another unit in case of emergencies.
Capacity is for 212 passengers, of which 84 can sit four abreast. The entire tram is step-free, including between the cars and the platforms. Seats are designed for travel times up to 60 minutes. There are four slide and plug doors on each side; three are double, with a total width of 1,300-millimeter (4 ft 3 in), while the last is a single 800-millimeter (2 ft 7 in) door. Stop-buttons are only available at the doors; this has been chosen to quicken the unloading time. Between the seats there is a corridor with a minimum width of 720 mm (2 ft 4 in) which allows wheelchair and buggy access along the full length of the car. All stations are announced visually and orally. The trams have wireless Internet access available for all travelers.
All stations are announced with a short distinctive melody and the station's name. The melodies were composed by Snorre Valen, while the voice for the station names was recorded by Heidi Lambach.
The system uses standard gauge tracks and 2.65-meter (8 ft 8 in) wide cars, with the platforms built to allow 44-meter (144 ft) long trams. The system is built without balloon loops, so trams must be bi-directional. The current is supplied from six rectifiers, dimensioned so the system can operate with two rectifiers out of service. In the city center, the overhead wire has been designed to minimize the number of poles, while in the suburban areas, a conventional system has been chosen, with a carrier wire above the power wire.
The entire system is double track, allowing visual signaling and speed adjustment on all ground stretches. In city streets, S60-track is used, and in own right-of-way sections, S49-track is used. The minimum curve radius is 25 metres (82 ft) and tracks in city streets are laid within a rubber jacket to reduce noise. In the tunnels, only one tram can operate in each direction; this is regulated by lights and an automatic Train Protection system. The signaling does not use traditional Norwegian light signals, but instead the German BOStrab system. The light rail line has traffic signal preemption, so the trams send a signal to the traffic light control when the driver starts the door-closing signal to give the tram a green priority at traffic lights.
The depot is located at Kronstad, at a former yard used by the Norwegian State Railways, and here there is a track that connects the light rail network to the Bergen Line. The depot was finished in 2009, and has place for sixteen 40-meter (130 ft) units, plus a workshop with space for two trams and a garage with place for three. There is sufficient area for further expansion, but tracks have not been laid. When the light rail line is expanded to Flesland, a new main depot is planned in an area with cheaper land, and the Kronstad depot will be converted to a pure overnighting facility.
Fifteen stations were built for the first stage, and five additional stations are planned for the second stage. The stations and the visual profile of the system as a whole are designed by the Bergen-based design groups Cubus and Fuggi Baggi Design, and Copenhagen-based Kontrapunkt. The stations of the first two stages will be situated on street level, and will have facilities for buying tickets and dynamic displays that show when the next tram will arrive. The platforms will have step-free access to the trams, allowing unhindered accessibility by wheelchairs and perambulators.
The municipal government of Bergen has permitted denser development around the stations, where it wants most new housing and commercial property in Bergen to be built. Development projects for Slettebakken, Wergeland, Paradis and Lagunen have been announced by private developers. Many of the stations are located in primarily residential areas, and the projects have met resistance from residents who fear that the character of their neighborhoods will be altered.
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