There has been some media attention given to the arrival of the the two Bombardier Flexity Outlook trams from Belgium, for a demonstration operation on a short section of Vancouver’s ‘Downtown Historic Railway’, during the Olympics. I was very disappointed in BCTV News when the commentator described the trams as “old fashioned“, as the Flexity generation of trams are probably the most modern public transit vehicle on the market today.
The Flexity family of modular trams, as with Siemen’s ‘Combino‘ and Alstom’s ‘Citidis‘, can be either unidirectional or bidirectional, with two driving positions at either end. Being modular, the Flexity tram can be made to custom suit any operator and shorter cars maybe delivered to starter systems and can be economically lengthened, by adding more modules, when customer demand warrants. Being low-floor means that the Flexity tram can cater easily to the mobility impaired, with no expensive ramps or the need for attendants.
The Flexity comes in a standard length of 2.65 metres, unlike other modular trams which designed to cater to metre as well as standard gauge transit systems. Also of note is that trams designed solely for urban or city lines, with stops every 400m to 600mTram The, have smaller (cheaper) motors and lower maximum speeds; Flexity trams designed for suburban routes or tram tram service, with much longer station spacing have higher maximum speeds.
The Flexity family of trams
|Flexity 2||100% low-floor||32.5m|
|Flexity Classic||65–74% low-floor||70–80 km/h||21–45 m|
|Flexity Outlook||100% low-floor||65–80 km/h||27–43.4 m|
|Flexity Swift||70–76% low-floor
or 100% high-floor
|70–100 km/h||25–42 m|
|Flexity Link||50% low-floor||100 km/h||37 m|
|Flexity Berlin||100% low-floor||70 km/h||30.8 m–40 m|
I also see Vancouver’s Engineering department has relaid a portion of the “Downtown Historic Railway” track, which seems to be built to a much more expensive heavy-rail standard, suitable for TGV operation with cement ties and Pandrol clipped rail, which is overkill for a tram designed to operate on trambahn and/or girder rail. No doubt city engineers are pleased, but this rather expensive track may skew the city’s estimates for the cost future streetcar development. It would be nice to see some sections of trambahn, girder rail and even some L-55 low profile rail to give a real look of modern tram track.
The ‘Downtown Historic Railway’ operates on a route that never did have streetcar or interurban operation (the line was original a GNR/CPR interchange track) and very few people in Vancouver will have the opportunity to see modern LRT in operation; and modern light rail it is, as the Flexity trams will operate on a fully reserved rights-of-way, with no on-street operation. A streetcar it is not.
There are financial clouds hovering over the Historic Railway, as Vancouver is in a budget crisis and Vision (Visonless by many) Vancouver who now control the reigns of power may cut funding or not even fund the ‘Downtown Historic Railway’ in 2010.
One hopes that the very short operation of the two European trams will spur on development of light rail in this light metro city, but I think the powers that be believe in massive tax and fare hikes to fund a few more SkyTrain Lines.