Mulhouse Light Rail and Tram Train, France: A template for the return of the interurban?


Mulhouse, population 112,260 (2006) is a small French provincial city that has just built two tram lines but now is expanding their tram service further afield by adding Tram-Train and track sharing with mainline railways. Here, again is another example of small city in Europe, building with LRT and then greatly expanding tram service via Tram-Train, using existing railway infrastructure. One wonders how many examples of Tram-Train one must show to TransLink and the provincial transportation ministry, until they get their collective heads out of the sand and start planning for Tram-Train for the Fraser Valley?

 The following is from SITRAM the operating authority.


A tram-train is a tram designed to run both on the tracks of an urban tramway network and on the existing railways. It allows travel in an extended geographical area without “breaking the journey”, i.e. without changing the method of transport. The Mulhouse tram-train will be the first to be commissioned in France.

The tram-train, also known as an interconnection tramway, will eventually serve some fifteen stations between Kruth and Lutterbach and ten stations on the Mulhouse urban network. This project is sponsored by the Alsace Region with the support of Réseau Ferré de France, the SNCF, SITRAM and the Haut-Rhin département.

The first tram-train phase concerns public transport services between Mulhouse and Thann St Jacques, due to come into service at the end of 2010. The journey will then be mainly covered by tram-train, running every 20 minutes. This 20 km section will include 18 stops including 7 urban tramway stations in Mulhouse.


Principles of the first phase:

  • An interconnection between the rail network and the tramway network at the Stricker roundabout.

  • A quasi-urban offer in the Cernay and Thann sectors.

  • A dense, extended offer in the Valley.

The offer will be regular and transparent in both directions from Mulhouse to Kruth

  • 20 min from Thann to Mulhouse and 30 min from La Haute-Vallée to Mulhouse;

  • 1 train linking La Haute Vallée directly to Mulhouse station (without going through the city centre) per hour.

Services will be increased significantly

  • from Mulhouse to North Thann, the service offered increases from 23 to 48 return journeys daily.

  • In La Haute Vallée the offer is increased from 17 to 27 return journeys daily.

Connections will be facilitated in Mulhouse station

  • with the TER regional train, a regular service of 200 trains to Basle, Colmar and Strasbourg.

  • with green line trains.

Most journey times will be reduced.

Several infrastructure developments are currently under way

Between the Stricker roundabout and Lutterbach

  • 4 km of new track dedicated to the tram-train and to the tramway and electrified

  • Creation of 2 new stops: Zu-Rhein, Musées

  • Improvement of 2 existing stops: Dornach, Lutterbach

  • Creation of 2 crossing points

Between Lutterbach and North Thann

  • Electrification of the line

  • Improvement of 4 existing stops: Graffenwald, Cernay, Vieux-Thann, Thann

  • Creation of 2 new stops: Vieux-Thann ZI, Thann Centre

  • Improvement of the North Thann connection point

  • Creation of 3 crossing points
    For a cost of €84.4M (current euros)

The Tram-Train line will eventually link the centre of Mulhouse to the municipalities of the Thur valley, over a distance of 37 km.


TramTrain 2

The rolling stock

Twelve Siemens Avanto tram-train cars have been financed for this scheme by the Alsace Region with the support of SITRAM. A comfortable vehicle with a similar design to the tram, it has higher acceleration/deceleration performance than a standard train:

  • A top speed of 100 kph.

  • Excellent acceleration and braking capacities.

  • A reduced stopping time in the stations (20 to 40 seconds per stop).

These 3 characteristics of the tram-train allow a better service for the areas covered, with more frequent stops but also a reduction of the journey time by comparison with traditional trains.

The definitive livery selected for the future Mulhouse – Thur valley tram-train was designed by the Spanish graphic designer Peret, who also designed the urban tram livery. The artist had to take into account firstly the graphic identity of the SITRAM trams and buses, and secondly the graphic identity of Alsace TER regional trains.
The selected proposal is in line with the geometric symbols of the urban trams. The background colours of the livery are grey and blue, with a top blue line providing a link with the regional train liveries. The specific regional identity is symbolised by lines of colour on the right-hand section and by the schematic representation of the regional train network, here the Mulhouse – Thur valley line.




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