Trams in Brussels
|Brussels tramway network|
|A Bombardier T3000 in Brussels, 2010.|
The Brussels tram (or streetcar) system is one of the ten largest in the world, carrying some 75.6 million passengers in 2009. Its development demonstrates many of the quandaries that face local public transport planners. It also has a number of interesting peculiarities.
The first horse-drawn trams were introduced in Brussels in 1869, and ran from the Porte de Namur to the Bois de la Cambre.
Intermodal integration 
The system exists in an interesting local government context, because Brussels is a self-governing region, in fact an enclave within Flanders, although lying only some 3.3 kilometres from Wallonia at the closest point. This means that three-way deals are necessary between Brussels’ own STIB/MIVB, Flanders’ De Lijn and Wallonia’s TEC. Within the range of transport modes operated by STIB/MIVB (the Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company), trams fall between buses and a heavy metro. But beyond that, STIB sees itself as a provider of mobility rather than just public transport, and has a 49% share in the town’s Cambio carsharing franchise. The Brussels conurbation — its 19 municipalities plus adjoining commuter belt — is also served by a fairly dense network of main-line trains. There is a good level of interticketing, and multiple-journey cards are interchangeable. A simple tariff system permits passengers to make unlimited changes with a one-hour period at a cost of €2.50 when bought from the driver or €2.00 when bought from a ticket machine.
Ridership has been rising, and other user-friendly features that have grown up through custom and practice help this. For instance, passengers open the doors themselves by pressing a green strip on the central pole, and drivers usually make a point of waiting for latecomers. However, overcrowding at rush hours and at weekend is common, and fare-dodging is reputedly quite high, despite periodic enforcement campaigns.
There are 17 routes totalling 133.4 km, serving most points of the compass, and including two partial ring routes. These have a very varied feel, including street running through narrow streets in working class districts (lines 81 and 83), cobbled central reservation, reserved track through parkland and woods (44), and signal-controlled running in tunnels (the premetro). There are even some short stretches of gutter running (18). Almost all trams are double-ended and all are double-sided, and some stub termini remain (4, 51), although most have loops. The route pattern shows some notable gaps, particularly along major radial routes, because these were originally served by a separate tram system, the national network of buurtspoorwegen/tramways vicinaux. These had a track gauge of one metre, as against the Brussels standard gauge, and so the tracks could not easily be taken over when the lines were progressively closed from the 1960s onwards.
The complementary routing of vicinal and urban tracks and the replacement of key lines by metro has led to some peculiar track layouts, for instance at the Barrière de St-Gilles/Bareel St-Gillis. Of the seven roads that meet at this circular junction, all originally contained tramlines, whereas today only three do. To negotiate a sharp turn, route 18, until it was closed on 1 July 2007, had to make a 270-degree turn on its journey away from the city centre, looping round and crossing its own path.
A further peculiarity is that under the South station, the premetro and metro tracks both swap from running on the right to running on the left where they run parallel to provide cross-platform interchange between the two lines. This serves no apparent purpose, but may be because main line trains in Belgium run on the left. Trams cross back to the right under Place Bara but the metro stays on the left as far as the Roi Baudouin terminus.
There is no system of tram priority at traffic lights, but the track layout is used to avoid hold-ups on route 92 at the Ma Campagne and Place Janson crossroads, which lie 300 metres from each other on the Chaussée de Charleroi/Charleroisesteenweg. Here, there is lateral space for only one track in a raised central reservation. The rails swerve to the left approximately 100 metres in front of the junction, so that cars can queue in the right-hand lane.
Between 2006 and 2009, a phased transformation of the tram network took place, with the aim of improving regularity and relieving overcrowding. As part of this, the premetro service between North station and Albert was restructured with fewer lines passing through it, but at more regular intervals. These routes use the new longer Bombardier trams. The major part of the North-South Axis (from Lemonnier to Rogier) is now used only by lines 3 and 4 during the day. These lines have been branded Chrono. Tram lines 55 and 56 from Schaerbeek (north of Brussels) that used to use the North-South Axis now terminate at Rogier and nearby Gare du Nord/Noordstation, respectively.
As part of that plan, line 52 has been replaced by line 3 in the North (from the Brussels-South railway station to Thomas and from Van Praet to Esplanade), and by lines 56 (from Rogier to Princess Elisabeth), 82 (from Drogenbos to Lemonnier) and 32 in the South.
An already implemented part of this plan was the creation of tramway lines 24 and 25 in April 2007. Line 25 goes from Rogier to the Boondael/Boondaal railway station following the route of the ex-line 90 from Rogier to Buyl, then leaves the outer ring towards the Université Libre de Bruxelles campus of Solbosch. The (somewhat older) new line 24 strengthens the tram presence on the outer ring during daytime; it went from the Schaerbeek/Schaarbeek railway station to Vanderkindere in Uccle.
On March 14, 2011, lines 24 and 23 merged to create the new eastern semicircular line 7 running almost entirely on its own right of way. The new service runs from Heizel/Heysel in the north to Vanderkindere in the south.
High-floor and low-floor trams 
The development of the system is being pulled in two contradictory directions – towards low-floor street-running trams and high-floor underground railway. This has led to some conflicting decisions. The standard trams — still "PCC"s from the 1950s and 60s — have been followed by the specially designed "T2000" low-floor model and, at the end of 2005, was joined by a variant of the off-the-shelf "Flexity Outlook" from Bombardier (3000 series), and further, at the end of 2006, by an even longer version of the same family (4000 series). When the current order of 87 vehicles is fulfilled in 2012, Brussels expects to have the world's largest fleet of low-floor trams.
However, on some of the busiest routes, the convenience of the low floor is lost because of the anomalies caused by the hesitant upgrade of tram to metro. The city now has four heavy metro lines and three stretches of premetro or underground tram. The premetro tunnels have been built to allow for eventual upgrade to heavy metro. Thus, most of the platform is high, and is connected to the street (at least in the upward direction) by escalator. At some stations, lifts have been installed, but there is a cutout section taking the level down to one foot above ground, to board the trams. The three steps this entails make life difficult for passenger with baby buggies or suitcases, even though the new low-floor trams themselves are accessible to wheel-chair users. To get around this last barrier to mobility, an experimental ramp was installed in 2009 at Parvis de St-Gilles/St-Gillis Voorplein.
Rolling Stock 
As of July 2010, STIB operates the following trams, stabled in five depots:
|Tramcar Type||Depot Allocations||Count|
|Bombardier T2000||Ixelles, Schaerbeek||51|
Brussels trams have known several liveries. In the beginning of the 20th century, vehicles operated by the Tramways Bruxellois were dark green, while the Chemins de Fer Economiques had chocolate-liveried trams. The two companies merged in the 1920s, whereupon a standard livery of primrose yellow was adopted which lasted (with some minor changes in the trimmings) until the mid-1990s when a brighter shade of yellow was adopted.
A profound change in livery came in 2006 with the adoption of the so-called art nouveau livery, of silver and light brown, which adorns the new 3000 and 4000 vehicles and is gradually being applied to the whole fleet.
2010 Vancouver Olympics 
From January 21 to March 21, 2010, a demonstration streetcar project, known as the Olympic Line, at Vancouver, BC, Canada, utilised Brussels cars 3050 & 3051 (Bombardier Flexity Outlook) on a Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway 1.8 km track. 
Heritage trams 
The system exists in happy symbiosis with an active heritage operation based at the Woluwe depot, and privately hired trams have free access to the tracks. Very old trams, which still collect their current through trolley poles rather than pantographs, are normally restricted to the scenic line from Cinquantenaire park via Woluwe to Tervuren, which is run with the help of volunteers from the preservation society MTUB (Museum of Brussels Urban Transport). This service runs at weekends from April to October; occasionally, such as on the Belgian national holiday July 21, these trams appear in the city centre, where the line in the "Koningsstraat/Rue Royale" is trolleypole-enabled.
Over the years, several Brussels trams have been sent to the United States. Brussels tram 7037 is in San Francisco operating on line F, surreally repainted in the blue-and-white livery of Zürich. Brussels tram 1504 is at the Trolley Museum of New York and 1511 is at Old Pueblo Trolley. An ex-Brussels 4-axle PCC is also awaiting restoration at the Ontario St shed of Vancouver's Downtown Historic Railway.
Route list 
Tram routes as of 17 November 2011:
- 3: Esplanade — Churchill
- 4: Stalle P — Gare du Nord / Noordstation
- 7: Heysel / Heizel — Vanderkindere
- 19: De Wand — Groot-Bijgaarden
- 25: Boondael railway station — Rogier
- 31: Gare du Nord / Noordstation — Marius Renard Only in the evening.
- 32: Drogenbos Château / Drogenbos Kasteel — Da Vinci Only in the evening.
- 39: Ban Eik — Montgomery
- 44: Montgomery — Tervuren Station
- 51: Heysel / Heizel — Van Haelen
- 55: Da Vinci — Rogier
- 62: Da Vinci - Weldoeners/Bienfaiteurs
- 81: Marius Renard — Montgomery No service in the evening.
- 82: Berchem Station — Drogenbos Château / Drogenbos Kasteel No service in the evening.
- 83: Berchem Station — Montgomery Only in the evening.
- 92: Fort-Jaco — Schaerbeek Gare / Schaarbeek Station
- 94: Musée du tram / Trammuseum - Stade / Stadion Only in the evening.
94: Musée du tram/ Trammuseum — Louise / Louiza No service in the evening. 94: Legrand — Stade / Stadion No service in the evening.
- 97: Louise / Louiza — Dieweg
Stricken-out numbers represent partial services (they don't go up to the end of the line). Only regular services are shown in this list.
Statistics (2009) 
Passenger journeys: 76.3 million per year
Vehicle-kilometres travelled: 11.7m
Commercial speed: 16.8 km/h
No of trams: 332, of which 21.7% accessible
Length of tramline (double): 133.9 km, of which 72.5 km on reservation and 12.1 km in tunnel
Distance between stops (surface): 392 m
No. of depots: 6, + 2 workshops
Source: STIB/MIVB 2009 annual report
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Trams in Brussels|
- Tramways and Urban Transit, July 2005, published by the Light Rail Transit Association. ISSN 1460-8324
- (French) Tram2000 – a monthly magazine
- Tram 2000, April 2011 p. 12
- Map from September 1949 by J.C. Gillham inside back cover of Brussels - A Tramway Reborn 1945-2008, Geoffrey Skelsey & Yves-Laurent Hansart, Light Rail Transit Association, Peterborough UK, 2008, ISBN 978-0-948106-36-1
- Official English site
- Official English system map
- Brussels Studies 7: The direct cost and geography of Brussels mass transport’s operating delays, Frédéric Dobruszkes & Yves Fourneau, 24 May 2007
- Brussels Studies 20: The (in)efﬁciency of trams and buses in Brussels: a ﬁne geographical analysis, Xavier Courtois & Frédéric Dobruszkes, 27 June 2008