The first line of Montpellier's new tramway system was opened to the public on 1 July 2000 (official opening 30 June).
The city of Montpellier has a population of approx. 250,000 but forms part of a conurbation of nearly 500,000. With Roman origins, the city became renowned from medieval times for its university, one of Europe's most important centres for medicine. This tradition continues and the local economy is very much centred around the university and scientific research.
With this background, and an expectation of a rapidly increasing population over the next twenty years, it is not surprising that Montpellier has sought to equip itself with a modern transport system. The mayor, M. Georges Frèche has been a keen advocate of the tramway.
The route starts in the western outskirts of the city in the La Paillade district, an area of high-rise social housing. The terminus is situated adjacent to the Stade de la Mosson, home of the Montpellier-Hérault football club and serves two stops in the estate including St Paul which is adjacent to the depôt. This part of the route has been complete for some time and has enabled test-running of cars.
The route then takes a south-easterly direction to pass the principal university campuses and hospitals. Taking a course to the east of the medieval city centre, the route then reaches the central Place de la Comédie running along new right-of-way created alongside the SNCF main railway line. From the Place de la Comédie the line runs south to the railway station and then crosses the SNCF line to reach newly-constructed (pastiche neo-classical) office and residential developments at Antigone, Port-Marianne and Millénaire.
28 Alstom Citadis 301-series double-ended 75% low-floor cars, built at Aytré (La Rochelle). The livery chosen is somewhat unusual - a dark blue relieved (?) with white bird logos all over the bodywork.
This line, which crosses the city roughly north - east to south - west from Jacou to St Jean de Vedas, opened on the 16th December 2006 with the celebrations common in France for this type of occasion. From the start of service on Saturday afternoon and for the whole of Sunday 17th December, Tramway line 2 was flooded with travellers interested in discovering the line, testing their future journeys and watching the various shows offered by the communities served. It is estimated that the total use of the inaugural weekend (Saturday afternoon and Sunday from 7am to 8pm) was between 133,000 and 150,000 travellers. This compares with the forecast usage with a full timetable of 52,000 travellers a day Monday to Friday and 44,000 at the weekend.
The line is 19.6km with 35 stops and a complement of 24 trams. It interchanges with Line 1 at three locations.
Line 3 is being planned and will be 23 km with 32 stops and need a further 23 cars.
Furhter information can be found on the Montpellier TAM website
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