Trams in Ghent
The Ghent tramway network (Dutch: de Gentse tram) is a network of tramways forming part of the public transport system in Ghent, a city in the Flemish Region of Belgium, with a total of four lines (1, 21/22, 24 and 4). Since 1991, the network has been operated by De Lijn, the public transport entity responsible for buses and trams in Flanders.
The network covers approximately 30 kilometers . The rail gauge is 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge and trams are powered by 600 V DC overhead wires. The network uses dedicated rights of way as well as mixed traffic; the right of way on Groot-Britanniëlaan is shared with buses.
The system used to have one short tunnel, around 150 meters long, passing underneath Sint-Pieters railway station. The Sint-Pieters Station tram stop was located inside the tunnel. It was opened on June 28, 1996.
The system has no triangles and only a single turnback loop. Therefore, all rolling stock must be bidirectional, with cabs at each end. There are also two non-switch 90-degree crossings, between the lines of routes 1 and 21/22, on the crossing of Zonnestraat with Veldstraat as well as Korte Meers street. There are two crossings because the track of route 1 passes over streets in each direction. Along the Korte Meer the tram track goes toward the city center, the Korenmarkt stop, yet returns along the pedestrian/tram-only shopping area along the Veldstraat.
On streets where tram tracks are located away from the sidewalk, i.e. in the middle of the roadway, stops are located on islands with pedestrian overpasses leading to them. This improves pedestrian safety.
Horse-drawn trams appeared in Gent in 1874. The rolling stock consisted of 43 carriages, 14 of them open and the other 29 closed, with 100 horses used to draw them. The horse-drawn trams were operated by Les Tramways de la Ville de Gand, which existed until 1897.
On August 13 of 1897 operating concessions were issued to the Société Anonyme des Railways Éonomiques de Liège-Seraing et Extensions (RELSE) and the Compagnie Générale des Railways à voie étroite (CGR). These companies merged on January 4, 1898 to form the SA des Tramways Electriques de Gand. The aim of this move was to replace horses by electric traction, as well as the further usage of the tram network. It was also decided to use battery-powered trams, since they did not require unsightly overhead lines.
The power of battery operated trams was 25 hp. Each tram carried 45 passengers. The maximum speed of each was 12 km/h; by law, the operator was not allowed to travel any faster. A special 600 kW generating station was built to charge the batteries of these trams.
However, battery traction was operationally unsuccessful, so in 1903 a decision was made to install overhead electrification. The first trams powered by overhead lines entered service in 1904. This date marks the birth of a tramway in Gent. From 1904 to 1961 the system was operated by "Tramway Electriques de Gand" (TEG).
Late 20th century
In the 1960s the tram network of Gent decreased rapidly, there were eleven routes (1-10, 20) in 1961. By 1974 there were just four; the route to Melle closed on New Year's Eve, 1973.
- In 1961 the tram property was transferred from the TEG Tramway Electriques de Gand to the MIVG (Maatschappij voor Intercommunaal Vervoer te Gent) municipal organization.
- Until 1974 the archaic two/three-axle trams "de oude gele tramkes" (old little yellow trams) were used on Gent's tram network. During their working life, they were rebuilt and refurbished several times.
- Plans for a Premetro were made in the 1970s but were abandoned.
- In 1989 the trolleybus operated along the former tram route 3. In June 2009, the trolleybus stopped running, and under the Pegasusplan the route will revert to tram operation.
- In 1991, the MIVG tram undertaking became part of De Lijn.
- In the 1990s Gent's tram system started to expand again. In 1993 route 21 was extended to Melle Leeuw. In 1999, routes 21/22 were extended from Sint-Pieters to Zwijnaardebrug, near the E40 motorway; a further extension to Zwijnaarde-Dorp south of the E40 is under construction and due to open in November 2016, an additional branch to Ghent University Hospital opened in March 2016. The last extension previous to that took place in April 2005 when route 1 was extended to the Flanders Expo complex.
- Starting in 1998, the modernization of Gent PCC trams took place, this modernization featured the completely new interior, separate driver's cab, and better air conditioning equipment.
- Since 2000, the Gent tram network started to receive new generation Low Floor tram stock, these trams were named HermeLijn (a pun on the Dutch word for ermine). Prior to this, such trams were supplied in Antwerp. Unlike Antwerp, PCC trams used in Gent are double-ended. HermeLijn in Gent, of the first order have serial number 6301 — 6314. In 2005 another order of 17 HermeLijn trams arrived in Gent (6315 — 6331). Another ten arrived in 2007 (6332 - 6341).
Significant expansion of the Gent tram network is planned up to 2025; the network would expand to 80 km instead of 30 km, and six routes instead of three. Route 3 to Mariakerke, closed in 1969, is planned to reopen in the 2010s under De Lijn's Pegasusplan. Plans are also afoot for a tramline connecting Gent Sint-Pieters and Gent-Dampoort railway stations. The plan also includes increased frequencies (eight trams per hour), additional bus services and a Park & Ride system. In 2014 the extension works started for tram lines 21 and 22 to the centre of Zwijnaarde and for tram line 4 to Ghent University Hospital. The latter opened on 13 March 2016. The extension to the centre of Zwijnaarde will follow on 6 November 2016.
Routes overlap each other in some places. There are four routes in Gent: Numbers 1, 4, 21 and 22. Since routes 21 and 22 overlap for most of their extent, they are frequently viewed as a single route (lijn twee/route two). Every route has its own color; this color is depicted in a vehicle's destination sign, as well as on maps and schematics.
|1||Flanders Expo — Sint-Pietersstation — Korenmarkt (the historical center of the city) — Rabot — Wondelgem — Evergem|
|22||Kouter - Rozemarijnbrug - Sint-Pietersstation — Kouter — Korenmarkt - Zuid — Gentbrugge DC (DienstenCentrum/service center)|
|24||Rabot — Korenmarkt — Zuid — Melle Leeuw|
|4||Zwijnaardebrug — Sint-Pietersstation — Rozemarijnbrug — Rabot — Muidebrug — Korenmarkt — Zuid — Gentbrugge Moscou|
Some services follow a truncated route. Until 2004 they had their own numbers. For example, 11 and 12 were shortened versions of routes 1 and 2; the shortened routes along the way of route 4 were known as 41, 42 while route 4 was numbered 40. Nowadays, when a route is shortened, it retains the same number and just shows a different destination on its destination sign.
Additional shortened routes are organized frequently when mass activities such as Gentse Feesten take place in the center of the city. Bidirectional rolling stock makes it easier to organize shortened routes.
Trams on all of the routes run from approximately 5:30 until 23:30, both on weekdays and on weekends. The interval between trams is between 5 minutes (peak hours) and 15 minutes (off-peak). Each tram stop within the city of Ghent has a timetable.
All stops are request stops, made only on passengers' requests. In order to leave a tram at a given stop, a passenger must push a special button in the tram. This invokes a short sound signal, and a special red indicator lamp is lit in the passenger space, along with a signal lamp on the driver's control panel.
At a stop, when wishing to board, a passenger should raise their hand to request an approaching tram to halt.
The Gent tram is operated by De Lijn (the company which provides transport service in the whole of Flanders); the fare control system is the same as on all public transport in Flanders, and there are no turnstiles. A passenger should stamp a ticket in a validator in the tram (near the doors) at the start of a journey, and every time you take a connection tram or bus after that.
A ticket, which allows an hour's travel over most of the city, costs €? if bought from a tram-driver or €3 if bought in advance. Tickets are sold by vending machines at many tram stops, and at special "Lijnwinkel" kiosks (which also sell monthly and weekly passes). Tickets can also be bought at newspaper kiosks. There are no conductors on trams, but sometimes tickets are checked by fare enforcers; travellers without tickets may be fined €75 for a first time offense and up to €400 for a third or more time offense within 12 months . More recently these fare enforcers are oftentimes accompanied by several police officers. They have been granted some extended powers since 2009.
On PCC trams, the front door works only for entry; on newer HermeLijn trams passengers can enter or exit trams using any of the doors.
Archaic two- and three-axle trams, built in the early 20th century, continued in use until the early 1970s. The last of these were withdrawn in 1974.
Duewag trams from Bochum
By the early 1990s there was a lack of trams due to expansion of the tram network. In order to solve this problem, it was decided to acquire used trams. In 1993 a PCC tram from Saint-Etienne (France) arrived in Gent, board number STAS 507. Its stay in Gent was not successful and saw little use. The tram car was eventually scrapped.
In 1994 it was decided to buy used Duewag trams from Bochum (Germany). The first of them entered Gent on May 11, 1994. Here it got its board number 55. By September 1 of that year, the usage of this tram started, and on September 19, 1994 it was renumbered no. 60.
Nine ex-Bochum trams arrived in Gent. There numbers were 6260 — 6265 and 6267 — 6269 (Bochum numbers 29, 20, 19, 22, 23, 27, 11, 14, 16). Yet their usage in Gent was only four years, the Bochum trams left service by April 25, 1998, and by October 21, 1998 De Lijn decided to scrap the trams and sell them for scrap metal.
From 1971—1974, 54 PCC trams were delivered to Gent, built at La Brugeoise et Nivelles (BN) in Bruges. Their numbers are 6201 — 6254, but non-modernized PCC trams wear just the last two digits, e.g. 01 rather than 6201.
Tram no. 6201. This tram was recently repaired, yet not modernized. It was brought back to the condition of 1971, and repainted into the original MIVG blue livery, as it was from 1971—1991. This tram would be transferred to a museum in 2010, but is still occasionally used in case of shortage.
Tram nos. 6202 — 6223 were modernized in 1998-2003. The interior was completely changed, doors were replaced, and driver's cab were completely separated from passenger's space. It is supposed that those trams will work for 11–14 years more.
Tram nos. 6224 — 6254. A decision was taken not to modernize those trams. Decommissioning began in 2006; as of late 2007 seventeen of the trams were decommissioned. Up to 2010 the usage of non-modernized PCCs is supposed to finish but, as of 31/12/2008, a total of 43 PCC trams remain in service across the whole of East Flanders.
It is likely that these PCC's will continue service for a long time, since there are not enough new trams on order to replace them, especially regarding the planned network expansions.
These low floor trams (joint enterprise of Siemens AG and Bombardier) were supplied in Gent since 1999 till 2007/8. There are three series of HermeLijn in the operating pool: nos. 6301 — 6314, 6315 — 6331 and 6332-6341. HermeLijn trams are in fact a modification of NGT6DD and NGT8DD, which were built for Dresden's tram network from 1995—2000 by Deutsche Waggonbau (DWA) in Bautzen.
- Trams 6301 — 6314 were the first low floor trams. They were delivered in 1999—2000.
- Trams 6315 — 6331 were the second series of HermeLijn trams. They were delivered from February 10 to 1 December 2005. They have minor construction differences from the first series, and an automated stop announcement system.
- Trams 6332 - 6341 entered service during 2007. They are used in winter and spring on the Gent tram network; in summer and autumn they are used on De Kusttram, the Belgian Coast Tram service from Knokke to De Panne.
Currently, the main depot is on Brusselsesteenweg in Gentbrugge, next to the crossing with Steenvoordelaan:
This depot is used by trams as well as buses. A new tram depot was planned on a brownfield site at Wissenhage; a new tram and cycle bridge over a canal would connect it to the rest of the network. The bridge has been completed, but the depot has been delayed, partly due to pollution. The new tram yard would have enough space for 80 low floor HermeLijn trams, as well as 175 buses. There would also be repair facilities for trams and buses. The new depot would be located at:
The necessity to build a new tram depot arose because the Gentbrugge depot will be too small for the expanding transport system. In the interim, tracks under the E17 highway are being used as a temporary store. This is near the current depot, and also known as "Ghent Brugge-2 depot".
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