Trams in Lisbon

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Lisbon tramway network
A Lisbon Tram stopped at Praça do Comércio
LocaleLisbon, Portugal
Horsecar era: 1873 (1873)–1902 (1902)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
(to 1888)
900 mm (2 ft 11+716 in)
(from 1888)[1]
Propulsion system(s) Horses
Experimental steam
Electric tram era: since 1901 (1901)
Status Open
Routes 27 (maximum)
6 (present)
Operator(s) Carris
Track gauge 900 mm (2 ft 11+716 in)
Electrification 600 V DC overhead lines
Depot(s) Santo Amaro
Amoreiras (to 1981)
Arco de Cego (1902-1996)[2]
Route length 76 km (47 mi) (maximum))[1]
31 km (19 mi) (present)
Website Carris (in Portuguese and English)

The Lisbon tramway network (Portuguese: Rede de elétricos de Lisboa) is a system of trams that serves Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. In operation since 1873, it presently comprises six lines. The system has a length of 31 km, and 63 trams in operation (45 historic "Remodelados", 8 historic "Ligeiros" and 10 modern articulated trams). The depot is located in Santo Amaro, in Alcântara.


Horsecar (americano) at Rossio


Lisbon's municipal government wished to develop urban transit and granted concessions to build and operate various systems that included funiculars and tramways. The first tramway in Lisbon entered service on 17 November 1873 as a horsecar line. The vehicles, called americanos after their point of origin,[3]: 1–2  were initially deployed in the flat parts of the city where animals were capable of hauling their passenger loads.

Cable trams[edit]

To surmount the steep slopes where draft animal conveyance was impossible, funiculars were envisioned in proposals made to the municipal government in 1882.[4]: 187  The first of them started operating in 1884. This inaugurated the era of cable-driven transport, but the technology of electrical generation, transmission and power was developing concurrently and would eventually supersede it.

Cable tram services (or cable cars) afforded an alternative to funiculars for the longer and curved routes required to follow Lisbon's streets. Individual vehicles grasp a steel cable that runs continuously in a channel below the roadway surface. The transport company that ran the funiculars applied for and received the concessions to operate cable trams[4] and from 1890 initially proposed two routes based on plans by the Portuguese engineer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, who had already designed Lisbon's funiculars. In all, three lines operated in the city. Each had a 900 mm (2 ft 11+716 in) gauge, corresponding to that of the extant americanos. The rolling stock on the Estrela and Graça lines were built by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen; the São Sebastião cars apparently were designed by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen but built in Portugal.[4]: 128–134 

Elevador da Estrela[edit]

Equipment used on the Estrela line

The first line, put into operation on 15 August 1890, was 1.7 kilometres (1.1 mi) long and ran from Praça Camões to Largo da Estrela. At the Estrela terminal, the company set up a small depot where the steam-operated powerhouse was also located. Rolling stock consisted of a tug and trailer. Since single-ended vehicles were used on the Estrela route, there was a turntable there and a turning loop (raquette) at Praça Camões. The service ran until 1913 when it was rendered economically unviable by competing electric trams. Its former route is now part of 28E's.

Elevador da Graça[edit]

Equipment used on the Graça line

The second line ran from Rua da Palma on a 730 metres (2,400 ft) long route to Largo da Graça, climbing 75 metres (246 ft) in altitude.[4] It was opened on 26 March 1893. The depot and powerhouse were at the Graça terminal. The Graça route was served by bidirectional vehicles. Service ended in 1913 but part of the route was revived in 1915 and continues to operate as an electric tram line (12E).

Elevador de São Sebastião[edit]

On 15 January 1899 a third cable tram line started operating under a different concession from the other two.[4] It was the longest of the lines, extending for 2.7 km (1.7 mi) between São Sebastião and Rossio. The depot and powerhouse were in Palhavá (São Sebastião). It also ran for the shortest time of any of the lines, suffering bankruptcy in 1901.[5]

Electrification and modern era[edit]

Map of Tram tracks in Lisbon (network of 2011 in red)
Graça line cable tram running through Arco de Santo André at end of the cable traction era

On 30 August 1901, Lisbon's first electric tramway commenced operations. Within a year, all of the city's americano routes had been converted to electric traction, and by 1913 the cable trams were retired.

Until 1959, the network of lines continued to be developed, and in that year it reached its greatest extent. At that time, there were 27 tram lines in Lisbon, of which six operated as circle lines. As the circle lines operated in both clockwise and anticlockwise directions, each with its own route number, it is more correct to speak of a total of 24 tram routes, all of them running on 900 mm (2 ft 11+716 in) narrow gauge tram lines.

The slow decline of the network began with the construction of the Lisbon Metro and the expansion of the bus system.[citation needed]

Current network[edit]

Tram line 28 climbing a hill.

The current lines are:

The six remaining lines operate in the southern city centre and west of the city only. Aside from the obvious tourist attraction, those lines are still important because sections of the city's topography can only be crossed by small trams. Tram 15 also connects the entire western riverfront of the city to the centre and allows a better link for passengers with the bus system towards an area that still is not served by the metro.

Although reports prepared by both the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich concluded that the network should be retained and even extended, the process of decline continued until 1997, with the closing of the Alto de São João branch and the Arco Cego depot. By that time, many trams were destroyed or sold to other companies. In the following twenty years, there was only one change to the system, the shortening of Line 18 to Cais do Sodré.


In an apparent reversal of policy, the mayor (president of the city council) of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, announced in December 2016 that tram 24 would be restored to service in 2017 between Cais do Sodré and Campolide, saying that it was a mistake to reduce the city's network of electric trams and that work would be undertaken to reconstruct it.[6]

Carris originally said this was not a priority, but its 2018 Activity and Budget Plan[7] provides for the purchase in 2020-2021 of:

  • 10 more remodelados to augment the current historical fleet and reopen line 24 between Cais do Sodré and Campolide, at a cost of €8 million;
  • 20 more articulated trams to extend line 15 eastwards to Santa Apolónia station and the Parque das Nações, at a cost of €50 million.

On 24 April 2018, Line 24 was reopened, albeit initially between Camões and Campolide only. Track connections to the rebuilt loop at Cais do Sodré and some other track issues between Camões and Cais do Sodré will need to be attended to before operation to Cais do Sodré is possible.[8][9]

In July 2021 agreement was reached for two further extensions:

  • a 12.1 km U-shaped surface metro connecting the terminus of the yellow line at Odivelas to the Hospital Beatriz Ângelo in one direction and Loures in the other;
  • an additional 24 km of line on route 15, extending it to Linda-a-Velha in the west and to Sacavém in the north-east.[10]

Rolling stock[edit]

One of the 15 articulated CAF Urbos cars.

The tram fleet has fallen in size from 57 in 2012 to 48 in 2016.[7] Vehicles used are:

  • 'Articulado' trams made by Siemens (Siemens/CAF nos 501-506 and Siemens/Sorefame nos 507–510). These articulated vehicles were introduced in 1995 and run only on route 15.[11]
  • Carris ordered 15 new CAF Urbos trams in 2021. [12] It is expected that the delivery of the vehicles to Carris – starting in April 2023 – will be completed during 2024.[13]
  • 'Remodelado' trams (nos 541–585) used on all routes.
  • Tourist trams used on some routes.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Luso pages, Lisbon Trams, Part Two: Trams of The Past.
  2. ^ Luso pages, Lisbon Trams, Part One: Trams of Today.
  3. ^ Smith, J. Bucknall (1887). A treatise upon cable or rope traction, as applied to the working of street and other railways. London: Offices of "Engineering". hdl:2027/mdp.39015068246605. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Firmino da Costa, João Manuel Hipólito (2008). Um Caso de Patromónio Local: A Tomada de Lisboa Pelos Ascensores. Lisbon: Master's thesis, Universidade Aberta.
  5. ^ Paes Sande e Castro, António (January 1954). "A Vida Atribulada de uma Companhia Lisboeta de Viação". Olisipio. 65: 13–26.
  6. ^ Cardoso, Margarida David. (2016-12-15) "Eléctrico 24 vai estar de volta às ruas de Lisboa e as obras já começaram." Retrieved 2016-12-18 (in Portuguese).
  7. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-03-04. Retrieved 2018-03-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Faria Moreira, Cristiana (24 April 2018). "Pedido pelos lisboetas, o 24 voltou e logo se encheu de turistas" [On request by the Lisboans, the 24 returned and it was soon filled with tourists]. Público (in Portuguese). Sonae SGPS, S.A. Retrieved 2018-04-28.
  9. ^ Lisboa tram route reinstated after 23 years Metro Report International 27 April 2018
  10. ^ Tramways and Urban Transit, September 2021, p. 387
  11. ^ "Lisbon tram guide". Lisbon Lisboa Portugal. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  12. ^
  13. ^



External links[edit]