Trams in Geneva

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Geneva tramway network
Bombardier Flexity Outlook Cityrunner n°861 Genève.JPG
LocaleGeneva, Switzerland
Open1862 (1862)
Operator(s)Transports Publics Genevois
Track gauge1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge
Electrification600 V DC Catenary
Stock46 Duewag-Vevey
39 Bombardier Cityrunner
14 Stadler Tango
Route length36 km (22 mi)[citation needed]
Map of the network in 2013
(inset: network map in 2011).
WebsiteTransports Publics Genevois (in French)

The Geneva tramway network (French: Réseau tramway de Genève) is a network of tramways forming the core element of the public transport system in Geneva, Switzerland. It is operated by Transports Publics Genevois (TPG), and is supplemented by the Geneva trolleybus system and numerous motor bus lines.

Opened in 1862, the network had grown sufficiently by 1920 to be the largest in Europe. However, by 1960 it had contracted to just one line. Since 1995, it has been greatly expanded. It presently has four tram lines, and further expansions are planned.


Rise and fall (1862–1976)[edit]

A steam tram in Corsier, ca. 1900.
A plan of the network in 1917.

Geneva's and Switzerland's first trams ran on 19 June 1862, with the opening of a horsecar tramway between Place Neuve and Carouge. In 1889, a steam tramway was opened, and in 1894 Geneva's first electric tram entered service. Finally, in 1899, the Compagnie Genevoise des Tramways Électriques (CGTE), predecessor of the TPG, was inaugurated.

The CGTE set itself the goal of unifying the various systems. All lines were electrified and converted to a uniform metre gauge.

For nearly three months in 1904, the CGTE also operated the steepest adhesion railway in Switzerland. The incline reached 11.8%, but the dangers posed by such steep inclines brought about the swift demise of this line.

In the 1920s, the city and the canton had the largest network of urban and suburban tramways in Europe[citation needed]. As of 1923, a total of 120 km (75 mi) of tramways had been built. The network extended into the countryside, and even across the border into France.

In 1925, the CGTE began to convert its interurban lines to bus operation. This process continued in the city centre, where the lines were partly replaced by trolleybuses. By 1969, the network had shrunk to just one 8 km (5.0 mi) long tramway, which was served by line 12 (Moillesulaz–Carouge). The good technical condition of the tramcars and the fact that they had not yet been written off, led to the provisional retention of the last tramway.

In the 1970s, concepts were developed to connect the relatively large suburban communities of Meyrin and Onex to the remaining tramway once again, with an appropriately modern light railway. However, all of these ideas, and also the investments necessary for the maintenance of the remaining infrastructure in the medium term, exceeded the abilities of the privately owned CGTE. A popular initiative demanding the nationalization of the CGTE was then adopted, and on 1 January 1977 the CGTE was transformed into the TPG, an autonomous government agency of the canton of Geneva.

Renaissance (1977–1992)[edit]

SWP motor car 724, and trailer 323, on Rue de Genève, 1980s.
The same kind of car, No. 708, as seen from above, 1973

In 1978, the tracks of the last remaining tramway were renewed under the auspices of the "new" TPG. Planning of the proposed new lines was addressed. However, it was only on 12 June 1988, with the adoption of a new cantonal law about public transport, that the first concrete building proposals were presented. From 1995, these proposals then became the basis of larger network extensions.

By that time, the most pressing modernisation of existing operations had already occurred. In 1984, in Bachet-de-Pesay in the municipality of Lancy, construction work had begun on the new Bachet tram depot. To connect the new facility with the existing network, the route of line 12 was extended on 27 September 1987 by one kilometre (0.6 mi) from Carouge to Bachet. The sidings and maintenance facility in Bachet were opened in 1988, and in 1990 the associated tram and trackwork construction workshop was commissioned. Finally, in 1992, the new administration building was opened. Since then, it has been the headquarters of the TPG.

In 1987–1989, the TPG procured a total of 45 new, partly low floor, articulated trams, based on the prototype Be 4/6 tram no. 741, which had joined the TPG fleet in 1984. The new trams were supplied by Ateliers de Constructions Mécaniques de Vevey (ACMV) in Villeneuve, Vaud, in collaboration with Düwag and BBC / ABB. The colloquial expression "DAV", which is used to denote these vehicles, is an acronym for Düwag - Ateliers de Vevey. Following this new procurement, TPG's existing fleet of old trams could be completely withdrawn, as future network expansion, including the introduction of new lines 13 and 16, had already been taken into account when the order for the new trams was placed.

Network expansion (1992–2006)[edit]

Development of the tramway network between 1992 and 2012.

In 1988, a referendum on the proposed new network expansion projects was unsuccessful. The first phase of development of the network therefore became the construction of a central Plainpalais–Carouge–Bachet–Palettes–Acacias–Plainpalais ring link, and the crossing of the Rhône to the Genève-Cornavin railway station, with a continuation to the Place des Nations and United Nations Office at Geneva.

On 28 May 1995, line 13 (Cornavin–Bachet) was opened, and trams returned to the other side of the Rhône. On 28 June 1997, line 13 was extended from Bachet to Palettes and on 28 March 1998, line 16 (Moillesulaz–Cornavin) was put into operation. On 14 December 2003, line 13 was extended from Cornavin to Nations.

The following year, on 11 December 2004, line 15 entered service; it ran on a new route from Lancy-Pont-Rouge via Acacias to Plainpalais, and continued from there via Cornavin station to Nations. From 10 December 2005, this new section was also served by line 17, which ran from Plainpalais to Eaux-Vives station.

Due to the increased need for rolling stock resulting from the network expansions after 2000, more trams were procured. Initially, the TPG ordered 21 Flexity Outlook Cityrunners from Bombardier Transportation for delivery in 2004-2005, with an option on another 17 vehicles; the option was exercised at the end of 2007.

On 13 May 2006, upon the entry into service of a new section between Palettes and Lancy-Pont-Rouge, the ring link was completed, and with it the first phase of the network's expansion. The new ring link section facilitated the extension of line 15 and line 17 to Palettes and Bachet, respectively. From the day the ring link was completed, the four tram lines operating on it, lines 12, 13, 15 and 17, no longer terminated there, but changed their numbers at designated stops: line 12 became line 17 at the Bachet stop, and line 13 became line 15 at the Palettes stop. In 2009, there was another alteration in the way the lines serviced the ring link: line 12 began switching to line 15 at the Palettes stop, line 13 started to reverse at the Palettes loop and line 17 was redirected to turn around at the Lancy-Pont-Rouge loop.

TCMC and TCOB construction (2007–2011)[edit]

TCOB track construction site in Onex, February 2011.

The next network expansion phases included the Tram Cornavin–Meyrin–CERN (TCMC) project, the construction of which began in early 2006, and the Tram Cornavin–Onex–Bernex (TCOB), for which the Swiss Federal Council awarded the concession in January 2007.

The first section of the TCMC, between Cornavin and Avanchet, was opened on 8 December 2007. Initially, it formed part of the extended line 16 (Moillesulaz–Avanchet) and the new line 14 (Bachet–Avanchet). On same date, line 17 was extended, from Eaux-Vives station to the disused Chêne-Bourg station, and thus revived scheduled services on the short local branch line, including its terminal loop, after a long absence.

The first TCMC section was built in a double track configuration. However, the absence of any balloon loop at the provisional terminus at Avanchet, or at the permanent termini at Meyrin–Gravière and CERN, as well as the inclusion on this section of several stations with island platforms, made necessary the exclusive use of bidirectional vehicles to run services on the section. As the numbers of the Flexity Outlook trams in the fleet were then rather limited, the TPG exercised its existing option for 17 more vehicles, while in the meantime the previous through-connection of line 12 with line 16 at the Moillesulaz terminus had to be suspended.

According to various sources, the opening of the second stage of the TCMC (Avanchet–Meyrin) took place on 12 December 2009, with the entry into service of the section to Meyrin (Gravière). On 30 April 2011, operations commenced on the section to CERN.

The TCOB route to Bernex P+R, which includes, amongst other things, a second crossing of the Rhône, went into service at the end of 2011. The first – very short – section of this route, between Coutance and Genève-Cornavin station, had already commenced operations at the timetable change in December 2010. A new line 18 ran on the route, and was extended to CERN in May 2011.

For the inauguration of the TCOB route, the TPG ordered 32 Tango trams, made by the Swiss company Stadler Rail. Like the Cityrunners, the Tango trams are bidirectional.

After the new route to Bernex P+R was commissioned, the network was simplified. There are now only four tram lines, nos. 12, 14, 15 and 18. The use of the previous lines 13, 16 and 17 were discontinued, and only one line now operates on most section of track. Although these changes simplify tram operations, they also mean that points on the inner city sections, and in particular Genève-Cornavin station, can no longer be reached from all parts of the network (e.g. Genève-Cornavin is no longer directly served by line 12) without the need to change trams en route.


Duewag-Vevey Be 4/6 tram no. 822 operating line 12, July 2012.

Since the 2011 network simplifications, Geneva has had four tram routes, as follows:

Line Route Year opened Present route since Places served Stops
12 Palettes ↔ Moillesulaz
via Bachet-de-Pesay
1862[Note 1]
2008 Bachet, Carouge, Place Neuve, Rive, Gare Eaux-Vives, Chêne-Bourg 29
14 Bernex P+RMeyrin-Gravière
via Bel Air
2007 2012 Onex, Petit-Lancy, Stand, Bel-Air, Gare Cornavin, Servette, Avanchet 31
15 Palettes ↔ Nations
via Acacias
2004 2006 France, Gare Cornavin, Plainpalais, Pont-Rouge 19
18 Carouge ↔ CERN
via Gare Cornavin
2010 2014 Carouge, Gare Cornavin, Servette, Avanchet 26

Interchange stations, which enable transfers between the lines, are located at the following stops:

  • Genève-Cornavin railway station
  • Bel-Air
  • Stand
  • Plainpalais

In implementing this different method[which?] of operating the network, the TPG hoped to increase commercial speeds of its vehicles.

Few networks in Europe use this[which?] method of operation, the Strasbourg tramway network being a notable exception.


Extension of line 14[edit]

An extension of line 14 from Bernex-Est to Bernex-Vailly was confirmed in 2010, and was scheduled to be completed in 2012, for commissioning by the end of 2013.[1]

Other extensions[edit]

The extension of line 18 into French territory at Saint-Genis-Pouilly[2] has been authorised by the Swiss authorities, and is now in the hands of French local authorities. Commissioning of the extension may take place in 2016.[3]

Two other cross-border extensions are planned, one towards Saint-Julien-en-Genevois via Plan-les-Ouates, and the other an extension of line 12 towards Annemasse.[4]

Finally, an extension of line 15 is proposed between Place des Nations and Le Grand-Saconnex, with a possible extension to Ferney-Voltaire in France. However, the realisation of this project would depend upon the construction of the new Route des Nations, a project the commencement of which is still uncertain.[5]

Supercapacitor power supply[edit]

The TPG has tested a supercapacitor power supply system on a Stadler Tango tram. If such a system were found to be successful, it could be applied to the other 31 Tango trams 'relatively easily'.[6]


Heritage motor cars[edit]

  • Ce 4/4 66 (1901/1936) CGTE/SAAS, returned from AMITRAM (Lille), currently in restoration
  • Ce 4/4 67 (1901/1936) CGTE/SAAS
  • Ce 4/4 70 (1901/1936) CGTE/SAAS, owned by Compagnie ferroviaire du Léman (CFDL), used as event tram
  • Ce 2/2 80 (1901) Herbrandt, on loan from AMTUIR (Paris), not operational
  • Ce 2/2 125 (1920) SIG/SAAS, on loan from Blonay–Chamby Museum Railway (BC)
  • Ce 4/4 729 (1952) SWP/SAAS (Swiss Standard Tram [de; fr])

Heritage trailer cars[edit]

  • Bi 363 (1919) SIG
  • Bi 369 (1919) SIG, returned from AMTUIR (Paris), currently not operational
  • B 308 (1951) FFA
  • X 70, platform trailer, owned by Compagnie ferroviaire du Léman (CFDL)
  • X 603, snow plough, not operational
  • K 204 (1913) SWS, box car bought from BVB to be converted as a CGTE freight car, not operational

Current fleet[edit]

Image Model Manufacturer Entered service Quantity Fleet nos. Length
Alte Straßenbahn in Genf 2010-07-01.jpg Be 4/6 Duewag 1984 and
1987 – 1989
24 801,
802 – 822, 825, 826
21.9 m (72 ft)
Arve (06.12.12) 70 (8250661816).jpg Be 4/8 Duewag 2004 – 2005 and
2009 – 2010
21 831 – 852 30.9 m (101 ft)
Tramway de Genève.jpg Flexity Outlook Cityrunner Bombardier 2004 – 2005 and
2009 – 2010
39 861 – 899 42 m (138 ft)
Tango TPG rue de chantepoulet.JPG Tango Stadler Rail 2011 – 2014 19 1801 – 1819

1820 - 1832

44 m (144 ft)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Line 12: opened on 19 June 1862 (1862-06-19) as a line from Place Neuve to Rondeau de Carouge.


Inline references[edit]

  1. ^ "Conseil d'Etat Communiqué: Octroi de la concession pour le prolongement du TCOB jusqu'à Bernex-Vailly" [Council of State Communiqué: Granting of the concession for the extension of the TCOB to Bernex-Vailly]. Republique et Canton de Genève website (in French). Canton of Geneva. 2010-03-10. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  2. ^ "Conseil d'Etat Communiqué: Feu vert de Berne au prolongement de la ligne TCMC vers Saint-Genis-Pouilly" [Council of State Communiqué: Bern gives green light to the extension of the TCMC line to Saint-Genis-Pouilly]. Republique et Canton de Genève website (in French). Canton of Geneva. 2010-08-25. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  3. ^ "Tramway TCMC: prolongement Cern - Saint-Genis-Pouilly" [TCMC tramway: extension Cern - Saint-Genis-Pouilly]. Conseil général de l'Ain website (in French). Conseil général de l'Ain. Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  4. ^ "Mobilité: Les trams – Genève planifie un nouveau réseau de trams" [Mobility: Geneva is planning a new tram network]. Republique et Canton de Genève website (in French). Canton of Geneva. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  5. ^ "Mobilité: La route des Nations et la jonction de Ferney" [Mobility: The Route des Nations and Ferney junction]. Republique et Canton de Geneve website (in French). Canton of Geneva. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  6. ^ "Genève tram trial assesses supercapacitor performance". Railway Gazette International website. Railway Gazette International. 2012-08-07. Retrieved 2012-11-04. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)


  • Bernet, Ralph (2000). Trams in der Schweiz: von Basel bis Zürich: Strassenbahn-Betriebe einst und jetzt [Trams in Switzerland: from Basel to Zurich: Tramway Operators Then and Now] (in German). München: GeraMond-Verlag. ISBN 393278507X.
  • Ploujoux, Gilbert; Calame, Bernard; Noir, Cédric (2010). Histoire des transports publics dans le canton de Genève [History of Public Transport in the Canton of Geneva] (in French). 1: Le XIXe siècle [The 19th Century]. Genève: Éditions du Tricorne. ISBN 9782829303210.
  • Ploujoux, Gilbert; Calame, Bernard; Elmiger, Gilbert; Noir, Cédric (2012). Histoire des transports publics dans le canton de Genève [History of Public Transport in the Canton of Geneva] (in French). 2.1: Le XXe siècle (1re partie) [The 20th Century (Part 1)]. Genève: Éditions du Tricorne. ISBN 9782940450183.
  • Schwandl, Robert (2010). Schwandl's Tram Atlas Schweiz & Österreich. Berlin: Robert Schwandl Verlag. ISBN 978 3 936573 27 5. (in German) (in English)
  • Willen, Peter (1978). Strassenbahnen der Schweiz. Triebwagen [Tramways of Switzerland. Motor Cars] (in German). Zürich: Orell Füssli Verlag. ISBN 3-280-00998-7.

External links[edit]

Media related to Trams in the canton of Geneva at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 46°12′37″N 6°8′36″E / 46.21028°N 6.14333°E / 46.21028; 6.14333