|Light Rail Transit Association - UK Development Group
FACT SHEET No 125
Rotterdam's TramPlus modernisation strategy, launched in 1991 and only now getting underway, has seen dramatic patronage growth, as demonstrated on prototype route 20. This has encouraged the Dutch Government to heavily invest in its MIT (Multiyear Investment in Transport) package. The route 20 success has helped to kick start the programme. The TramPlus concept is intended to change the image of Rotterdam's system towards an efficient, modern and clean means of transport for commuters, shoppers and tourists alike.
A WISH LIST BY RET (ROTTERDAM ELECTRIC TRAM)
An RET publicity brochure explaining some of the proposed distances between stops on urban metro, TramPlus and bus services, has helped passengers to understand better the technical parameters of each mode. The approximate distance between stations on the metro is 1000 metres, TramPlus 500 metres and for bus operation 300 metres in the CBD and between one and two kilometres in rural areas. With the help of segregated tracks and traffic light priority, TramPlus vehicles are expected to keep exactly to time on the peak period frequency of every 5 minutes. TramPlus operation in shopping and pedestrian areas will facilitate new paving, adapted vegetation and other miscellaneous items.
In 1994 there were 8 tram lines with a line length of 107km needing 115 trams. By 2010 this will have changed to 14 TramPlus lines with a line length of 155km needing 210 TramPlus vehicles (2).
SUBURBAN EXPANSION MAKES AN UPGRADE URGENT
The original TramPlus upgrade intentions have been somewhat overtaken by rapid development in the suburbs which to a certain extent has changed transit priorities, with three new lines added. In fact, traffic growth is behind much of the TramPlus strategy and reflects the hope of the Government to keep Rotterdam's traffic growth below 15% even though the national increase is expected to be much higher. A first opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of TramPlus came with opening of a new road bridge across the Nieuwe Maas in 1996. This permitted a new route 20 to initiate the TramPlus principles. Route 20 starts at Centraal Station and after passing through the CBD crosses the new bridge to join up with route 2. This removes the isolation of route 2 which for many years had no track connection with the main system.
CATERING FOR PASSENGERS' NEEDS BRINGS ITS OWN REWARDS
Whereas a southside passenger had suffered from a devious journey and mostly with a change of mode to reach the CBD, route 20 restored the through link with the added advantage of taking passengers much closer to where they wanted to go. This new facility was reflected in a patronage growth in one year of 6%. During that same year (1997), the whole RET system saw an increase of 0.7% (3). Other improvements associated with route 20 were an easier boarding arrangement from 280mm-high platforms, more attractive stopping points and a certain amount of noise reduction.
VANDALISM AND PERSONAL SECURITY
A strong deterrent towards using the underpass subway station at Randweg on route 2 was corrected just prior to the new service starting to operate in 1996. The badly vandalised station was replaced by a new surface stop and plans are now underway to do something similar at Lombardijen NS interchange station on this same route. Vandalism and security problems at this station have resulted in reduced patronage. A relocated stopping point on the surface seems to be the obvious answer.
Using a flyover to cross a railway line, a 1.8km branch has been provided off route 20 to take people to events at Feijenoord Stadium. Initially the services will be limited to activities at the stadium but plans are being prepared for a regular service. This branch will eventually be extended further to link up with a disused spur off route 2 which will provide another direct link into Rotterdam CBD. Other extensions being planned in the TramPlus upgrade will be located on both sides of the river.
ROLLING STOCK UPGRADE
One difficulty with the existing tram fleet is the need to climb steps to enter the tram. To overcome this and thus speed up boarding times, a fleet of low-floor Citadis trams has been ordered from Alstom. First deliveries are expected during July 2002 (4). The 60 low-floor cars will first be allocated to route 20 to provide a 4-minute frequency (5).
Rotterdam has been able to demonstrate that when tram is improved, the public will respond with their feet. Unfortunately the necessary funding to make worthwhile improvements has to be fought for, not everyone agreeing that transit has a priority. It is helpful that many examples are now appearing in France and the USA to amply demonstrate that when money is provided and quality improved, the public will happily respond.