A letter from Oslo


Oslo Tram

This has been forwarded to Rail for the Valley from the Eurotrams e-group.

Now where have you heard similar arguments?

Read Roy’s last two paragraphs, a certain resonance with the situation in the Fraser Valley & Metro Vancouver?

The infrastructure in Trondheim suffers from lack of interest from the city council. The tramway has been threatened with closure for the last half century.

After a kind of compromise back in 1984, when rolling stock was renewed and the network reduced to half the size, costs escalated – which was a cunningly calculated plan to prepare for a total closure, “reduced costs may give you twice as many buses”. But “may give” is not the same as “will give”. After the tramway closure in 1988 the level of bus services was cut back because people were no longer using public transport.

However, what the city council did not know was that there were no potential buyers to the 11 almost new 2.6 metre wide metre gauge trams. Luckily, an attempt to sell them to Cairo was not successful. Meanwhile, the bus substitution service along the still almost intact Gråkallbanen suburban tram line was not working well, so a group of enthusiasts were granted permission to borrow some of the trams and work the line. This proved to be a success, and for some years the reopened tramway was run
without subsidies.

The tracks in the city centre had been torn up only a few days after closure in 1988, a phenomenon well known from cities run by people fearing public demand to reopen. For the past twenty years a plan to extend the line through the city centre to the railway station has been promoted – and stalled – and rejected, over and over again.

The city council has over the last years unwillingly been made to take over the responsibility for the surviving tramway line, and the service is now run by private contractor Veolia. However the city council will still have to pay for maintenance and rehabilitation of the now run down infrastructure. So the city council will once again collect all the arguments they can find to close the tramway again. But of course, many people are fighting the city council on this issue.

After the light rail success in Bergen a proposal to either expand the metre gauge tramway or to build a complete new light rail system was launched. The city council ordered a feasibility study, which concluded that a bus rapid transit system would be fully adequate……and so very much less expensive than light rail (allegedly 90% less). So you have heard that one before? Of course, idiots are equally spread all over the world, we’ve got them too.

Why is public transport on rails so much better? The answer is simple, because people want quality, not cheap buses. By 1960 people in Trondheim made an average of 249 rides by public transport annually, Bergen 266 rides and Oslo 223 rides. By the year 2000 public transport rides had fallen to a 100 rides per citizen in almost tram-less Trondheim, a 105 rides in tram-less Bergen, and risen to a 315 rides in tram and metro city Oslo. Bergen has just turned the trend.

Roy Budmiger, Oslo


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