Trams in Innsbruck - B

Innsbruck Trams 1976-1983: Winter Olympics and Aftermath

A major review of transport led, in 1976, to the publication of a General Transport Plan for Innsbruck (Generalverkehrsplans). The detailed improvements to the street layouts which the plan envisaged involved a costly list of track rearrangements and realignments: consideration was given to replacing Innsbruck's trams with Articulated buses.

Line 6 and the Stubai Valley Railway would need to be repositioned on the south side of the city because of the route selected for the Inn Valley Autobahn extension. In the end the city council decided to fund the construction projects necessary to incorporate the trams into the city's updated streetscape.

The necessary changes were implemented during the summer of 1976, following which the network was configured as follows:
  • Line 1: Bergisel - Hungerburgbahn.
  • Line 3: Amras - City centre loop - Amras.
  • Line 3/1: Bergisel - Amras (during morning rush-hour, covering extra stops usually serviced only by Lines 1 and 6).
  • Linie 6: Igls - Bergisel.
The urban transport administrative offices at the Bergisel Station were considered badly outdated. For the 1976 Winter Olympics a nearby Press centre was built nearby, and the decision was taken to design and construct the press centre so that after the Olympics were over, the IVB (city transport administration) should take it over. In 1977, the IVB moved in, and some of the buildings at the Bergisel Station could be taken down.

1976 was also the year in which eight secondhand bi-directional powered tram cars were purchased from Hagen in northern Germany. This made it possible, in 1977, to retire the last of the timber-frame tramcars from the network. The only old-style tramcars remaining were two powered cars originally from Zürich, one unpowered-trailer-tram originally used on the nearby Merano mountain railway, which remained available for special duties including festive/Christmas work, two powered motor cars and eleven trailers on route 6.

By 1980, the launch of the city's Transport concept (Verkehrskonzept) signaled a realisation that oil prices could not be expected to return to 1960s levels: trams were no longer so readily to be written off as yesterday's solutions. There was talk of a new line for the Olympic Village and another for the Reichenau quarter. There was also a plan for reinstating Line 4 which had been replaced by a bus service in 1976 in response to the widening of the Haller Street. To service this expansion new six- and eight-axle articulated tramcars were purchased from Bielefeld, and a large new tram depot would be built.

In 1980, therefore, the transport authority decided to buy fourteen second-hand trams from Bielefeld, some for use on Line 6 and to support its extension to the Hungerburg funicular. In 1985 the line and its tram halts were modified for use with uni-directional trams (with passenger access possible from one side). Three of the trams bought from Bielefeld were modified for use on the service. Because of the lower passenger numbers on Line 6, this also now became the first Innsbruck tramline to be adapted for driver-only operation.

Innsbruck Trams 1983-1999: Modern Times

In 1983, the cars bought from Hagen in 1976 were lengthened and adapted for use on the Stubai Valley Railway. The original ac powered trams were replaced by the Hagen trams on 2 July 1983. The Transport concept (Verkehrskonzept) was revised in 1986 following a decision by the city authorities to use trolleybuses rather than trams in the eastern part of the city. Several of the former Bielefeld trams were used to replace the short-bodied Lohner trams in 1989.

In 1995, after thirty years during which no new tramlines had actually been constructed in Innsbruck, there was a modest investment in new tracks. This involved returning a second track to the Museum Street section which again became a twin track line, and a loop round the market place.

In 1996, Line 6 was threatened with closure not for the first time, but the financial support needed to keep it running was found following a deluge of signatures targeting the city authorities. In order to sustain passenger involvement at a time when nostalgia was becoming a mainstream marketing tool, two former powered cars that had operated on the line until 1981 were operated twice each day with trailers in tow.

Questions about the future for trams in Innsbruck returned at the end of the 1990s. Using three different types of vehicle for inner city mass transportation - trams, trolleybuses and motor buses - was seen as unnecessarily costly, and there was talk of abandonment; either the trolleybuses or the trams. The discussions led to a new regional rail (1999) and trams (2001) strategy (Straßenbahnkonzept und Regionalbahnkonzept) which broadly favoured of the trams, however.

Innsbruck Trams 1999 to the present day: The Regional Strategy and Low-Floor Trams

The decision of the city authorities, in 1999, to retain and expand the tram network triggered an ongoing programme of construction and renovation. This involved a certain amount of disruption during summer months because of extensive upgrade of track beds and tracks, involving much pouring of concrete.

Part of the strategy called for wider tramcars:

New trams would be 2.4 m (94 in) wide. Hitherto, tram widths in Innsbruck had been restricted to 2.2 m (87 in). While the track gauge was unaffected, the loading gauge was not, so that twin tracks had to be farther apart and greater clearance was needed for buildings and street furniture. This necessitated the largest re-laying of track since 1911. Some of the depots were also to be renewed, rescaled, and brought up to date.

The new trams strategy was formally adopted by the Innsbruck City Council in September 2001. By 2004, the tram terminus in front of the main station had been reconstructed, with the terminus for the Stubai Valley Railway and other regional meter-gauge mountain railways. In 2005 a new workshop-tramcar and two new trailer trucks were acquired, removing dependency on the vehicles used for line construction work over almost a century.

In 2005, work was completed on preparing the tracks in Andreas Hofer Street and Anich Street for the wider trams, and the first tram halts were adapted for use with low-floor trams so that, for the first time, passengers would be able to access new trams without having to negotiate one or more steps.

At the end of 2005 Innsbruck ordered 22 new tram sets from Bombardier, who had taken over the city's Vienna-based tram supplier 35 years earlier. Further tram halt changes, manhole cover renewals and other track adaptions for increased axle weights followed during 2006.

During 2007 nearly all the city trams were equipped with new radio control units. (Radio communication had previously depended on a system that used the overhead wires themselves). By 2007, almost all the tram halts had been adapted for use in combination with the new low-floor trams.

The first low-floor tram was delivered on 17 October 2007. A few weeks later services ceased on the stretch of line in the northern part of Maria-Theresia Street, one of the oldest continually operated stretches of line on the network. At the end of 2007 the authorities issued the final version of their plan for the reconstruction of the city and regional tram and rail networks, and this was agreed by the city council at the start of 2008.

At the start of July 2008 the first old-style Innsbruck tramcar, Number 53, was taken away to Bielefeld During 2008/2009 a further eleven of the former Bielefeld tramcars found new work in Arad, Romania, while five of the tramcars previously acquired second-hand from Hagen now found their way to Lódz.

After this, there remained in Innsbruck only four of the old DÜWAG articulated trams which had formed the backbone of the city fleet during the closing years of the 20th century.

The first of the low-floor Bombardier trams was certified on 11 March 2008 and entered service on Line 1 on 27 March 2008. Frequency on the Stubai Valley Railway was improved, with departures on the busy part of the line as far as Kreith every 30 minutes. Further service improvements and further retirements of the old stock followed, so that by July 2009 all the tramlines were operated exclusively by low-floor tramcars. At the same time the voltage was increased to 900 V. For Lines 1, 3 and 6 this involved replacing the transformers in all the sub-stations.

In 2010, work began on tackling further upgrades on the lines at the heart of the old network, with new tracks at the interchange area around Brunecker Street and Museum Street. Brunecker Street again received a second usable track. In 2012, steps were also taken to prepare Anich Street and along the Uni Bridge to strengthen the underpinnings for further track extensions, and steps were taken to adapt the 900 V electric power supply so that energy could be recovered during braking.

Innsbruck Tram Passenger Numbers

Tram transport gained rapid acceptance in Innsbruck after 1905 and passenger growth was strong, requiring investment in additional new tramcars. The positive trends continued till the outbreak of the First World War.

Staff shortages were caused by personnel being called up for military service in 1914, which enforced an initial falling off in tram use, but once new staff, including women, had been recruited the staffing issue was addressed, while increasingly inventive solutions were found for the shortages of replacement parts caused by the military redeployment of heavy industry. By the end of the war, in 1918, passenger numbers had more than doubled when set against their pre-war peak.

After the war there was no longer massive tram-use in connection with transporting wounded soldiers back from the front line and overall tram usage fell back, but through the 1920s and 1930 the trams were nevertheless the heart of Innsbruck's transport provision, although during the middle part of the 1920s motor bus operators appeared on the scene, and started to undercut the trams on price. During the middle 1930s passenger numbers sank in response to the reduced living standards and incomes that followed the economic crash at the start of the decade. Following the union with Germany early in 1938 prosperity returned, however, and passenger numbers recovered to pre-crisis levels.

Innsbruck became popular as a tourist destination, and nearby health resorts such as Igls and Solbad Hall boomed. In 1940, it was necessary to order a new batch of tramcars. However, war had resumed the previous year: wartime materials shortages meant that the trams ordered in 1940 could not be delivered. Nevertheless, the early years of the war saw a rapid increase in tram use. During the final years of the war air raids and the deteriorating availability of replacement parts caused cut-backs, and passenger numbers probably declined, but data for 1944 and 1945 has not been accessed.

After the war tram use fell back. During the 1950s and 1960s there was a massive surge in private car ownership, and with almost all of the city's tramcars fifty or more years old it was hard to attract investment in the network. Higher oil prices and growing city centre traffic congestion changed minds in the 1970s, and the major modernisation programme launched at the time of the 1976 Winter Olympics triggered a sustained increase in passenger numbers during the 1970s, which then reached a plateau in the early 1980s.

Trams in Innsbruck Overview

Innsbruck Tram Locale: Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria
Innsbruck Tram Transit Type: Tram
Innsbruck Tram Number of Lines: 3 (2012)
Innsbruck Tram Began Operation: 15 July 1905 (electric trams)
Innsbruck Tram Operator(s): Actien-Gesellschaft Localbahn Innsbruck-Hall in Tirol (L.B.I.H.i.T / Local Innsbruck-Hall Rail Company) 1905-1941
Innsbruck Transport Company (Innsbrucker Verkehrsbetriebe und Stubaitalbahn / IVB) (1941 to date)
Innsbruck Tram System Length: 19.5 km (12.1 mi)
Innsbruck Tram Track Gauge: 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+3/8 in) metre gauge

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