Trams in Tianjin

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Tianjin, a major port and industrial center in China, had its tramway restored as a modern rubber tired tram (Translohr) system.

Tianjin once had a standard steel-wheeled tramway network. Like other Chinese towns & cities, Tianjin's tram system was also opened directly as an electric tram. But the original tram service was completely stopped in 1972. In 2006, tram service returned to Tianjin in the form of the TEDA Modern Guided Rail Tram.


First tram of Tianjin

The Tianjin tramway is one of the oldest tram networks in Asia. It was built by Belgian interests during the foreign concession period in 1901, and recognized by the Chinese authorities in 1904. Electric trams were put in place on 16 February 1906,[1] and they were the main mean for urban public transport until 1972. Routes were built step by step, and it reached their most widespread network in 1933 with 116 tramcars. Tianjin was the first city to have its own citywide tram system (operated by Municipal Corporation) in China. It was the second electric tramway of Mainland China. By counting Hong Kong it was third.

Buses were introduced by the municipality in 1932. But from the mid '50's, traffic congestion on the tram network grew rapidly. The number of private cars also increased very much, and especially many streets, which were ideal for tram, now started occupying by motor vehicles. Tramcars were not modernized for many decades, and basically the 1930s electric cars were still running in the 1970s. On that time buses started faster & smoother journey with modern buses, whereas trams were still slower, single coach and many backdated features like bow collector etc., so looked outdated. Under maintenance of tracks caused some derailments and bumpy rides, which were not liked by commuters. Due to the wars between China & Japan, reconstruction of Tianjin became urgent, and for this program, many streets were necessary for widening. The transport authority thought that a slow tram transport with fast bus transport on middle of a wide road will cause many problems for smoother city transportation. The tramway had little comfort and was slow because it was caught in the traffic jam caused by the cars, rickshaws etc. The tracks were also outdated, noisy and in the middle of the street. Cars had to pass the tramway on the right, causing danger for the pedestrians boarding and alighting the tramway. By justifying all ways, transport department decided to replace trams by metros.

After closing tram network in early '70, people of Tianjin thought the only unfashionable obstacle of smooth city traveling has removed, and the city can move faster than before, but it proved false some years later. Uncontrolled increasing of petrol vehicles like buses, taxis, and private cars started choking the streets of Tianjin. Like most Asian countries, China suffered by many problems of developing countries, including pollution, traffic jam, illegal migration, low literacy and booming increasing of population etc. Increasing population started increasing urbanization of Tianjin, and it started increasing motor vehicles, which started increasing air & sound pollution, traffic jam & smog. Subway line construction started even 2 years before of the tramway closure. Metro is also an electric rail transport like tram, which runs mainly underground, so there is no question of caught in traffic jam like tram. Also it can take much more passengers than tram, but metro construction was slower in Tianjin. It took 14 years to complete only 1 line, even the construction was interrupted greatly by earthquake & lack of professional labors. The rapid growth rate of the city increased, so it needed more metro lines in a relatively shorter period. But constructions of subway was very costly including digging, tunneling, uninterrupted electricity, high maintenance, high technology for continually running a good subway network. It was not possible for Tianjin in a short period. From starting '80, all this problems started and at mid '90, inhabitants of Tianjin realized that non-controlling of motor vehicles, fully depending on metro & closure of tram was a great mistake. To solve those problems in a cheaper way, they decided to build a light rail system especially in eastern Tianjin, but although it was cheaper than metro, construction of elevated tracks & decorated stations were also costly. So light rail also wasn't the permanent solution. Many cities around the world like Tunis, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Pyongyang etc. also understood that error, and like them, Tianjin also planned for return of tram.

Downtown Tianjin was then so overcrowded by motor vehicles around 2000, so opening a tramway system were not possible there, so transport authority decided to construct it in the Tianjin Economic Development Area, which is in eastern side of the main city.


  • 1906 - Electric tram started running from 16 January.
  • 1933 - Tram service expanded to 14.4 km. This was the peak year of Tianjin tram.
  • 1972 - The last tram ran.
  • 2006 - Tram returned as modern rubber tired system in TEDA area of Tianjin.

Tram routes[edit]

Beside electric trams, a horse tramway was also constructed, which connected the city with a large arsenal to the east.


When first tram opened, all stocks were open type. There were only minimal roof, mostly top opened. Around 1930, newer stocks arrived. Windows added, and a more closed trailer was introduced especially in the peak hours. However, after that tramway had very little upgrade and basically the 1930s electric cars were still running in the 1970s. These vehicles looked outdated compared to the new cars and buses that were then on the streets. That was one of the strong reasons of closure of the system.


All tram routes were on unreserved tracks and middle of the roads. Tramcars were caught in the traffic jam caused by the cars. The tracks were also outdated, noisy and in the middle of the street. Cars had to pass the tramway on the right, causing danger for the pedestrians boarding and alighting the tramway. Those were one of the strong reasons of closure of the system.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 3 November 2012.