Tag Archives: green

Tramway ‘à la française’


Reliability, capacity, clean and green, urban regenerator, and vector of economic growth… despite the eulogies bestowed on the modern-day tramway, this mode of collective transport has not always had an easy ride in France.

Effectively erased from country’s transport map after the Second World War (idem other many European cities), the original tramways of every French city (with the exception of St Etienne, Lille, and Marseille) fell victim to a combination of circumstances – limited fuel during the war and tram systems that were already feeling their age. As a consequence, the networks were heavily used and so frequently overcrowded, plus they offered less than comfortable interiors (wooden slated seats and too hot/too cold temperatures hardly enhance the passenger experience!). There is little doubt that priority at the time was getting from A to B.

Post-war, between 1950 and the early 70s, tramways were phased out in favour of the car, which at the time embodied the ‘liberté’ of the French national motto. But beyond this golden age, when the freedom of the car started to feel the squeeze of congestion, when the oil crisis of 1973 hit home, city authorities started eyeing up the tram again. The mode appeared to offer all that was now desirable: reliability, capacity, clean and green, urban regenerator, and vector of economic growth. Plus there was all-important cost factor (cheaper than a metro system), too.