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A new tramway extension in Poland: Torun

PESA 122 NbT Swing Duo low-floor tram during the inauguration | © Silviu-Costin Iancu

The inauguration of a new tram line in the town of Torun, Poland, on 25 August 2023, represented a great opportunity for the local authorities and inhabitants to celebrate. The festivity started at 15.30 local time, when a column of more than 10 trams, having on board the mayor and other public figures, made the first journey on the new route. After reaching the terminal Heweliusz in the north of the city, the trams dropped the passengers at a location nearby where an outdoor festival with free access took place.

More than 6.5 km of new tracks were added to the tram network on that day, which represents the biggest extension since the fall of the communism. For the last 30 years, the trams have run through the town on only two east-west corridors, with the rest of the town, especially in the south and north, being covered by bus lines. This has now changed dramatically, with the tram reaching the north of the town, and providing the fast direct connection to the recently developing new housing estate called Osiedle Jar. It is not the first time when this part of the town has been covered by tram lines. In fact, the new line partially overlaps a single track route that used to exist in the street Szosa Chełmińska. That line was dismantled in 1991 due to the poor state, increasing costs of operation and numerous accidents at that time. Before the inauguration, the authorities decided that the old and new route will not only share the street alignment, but also one of the line numbers, 3, so that the historical tradition of operating the same line will be kept.

The new route was built as the part of the programme “Improvement of the public transport functionality in Toruń, BiT-City II”, which got funded on 3 August 2017 by the European Union from the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment 2014–2020. Using the funds given by the EU, the town was not only able to construct the new tram line, but also to modernize existing tracks, buy 14 hybrid buses, 5 new trams, 6 electric buses and their charging infrastructure, and last but not least to buy one technical vehicle for maintaining tram tracks.

In figures, the new line has a total length of 12.9 km single track (6.5 km double), 27 platform stops, of which 14 contain green elements where vegetation can grow. It is important to add that 5.2 km are built as green tracks, where surface layer is covered by green vegetation. The construction of the line included not only new tram tracks, but also the development of the surrounding infrastructure: the reconstruction of the existing underground infrastructure along the entire line, the reconstruction of the road system, pavements and bicycle paths, as well as the arrangement of green spaces. It is worth mentioning the construction of a level crossing where the tram track intersects a train track. This has become the first such a crossing between trams and trains in Poland.

Railway crossing at grade | © Silviu-Costin Iancu

From the very beginning, the local authorities were not able to secure the necessary funds for the whole project, so they split it into 2 phases. The contract for the first phase was signed on 30 August 2021. It included a total of 11.5 km of single track from the town centre to the crossroad of Strobanda and Watzenrodego streets. At this crossroad, a temporary triangle shaped terminal was supposed to be built, functional until the completion of the second phase. Luckily, the city hall was able to obtain additional funds soon after the start of the first phase, and the work on the last 1.4 km segment could progress in parallel. The line built in the second phase passes through an area of estate that has just recently started to be developed. There are no residential buildings completed yet, and the terminal Heweliusz was built in a forested isolated place. A building with social facilities, dispatching room and a ticket sales point was erected on the loop.

The line to Osiedle Jar has many turns, meandering through the northern neighbourhoods of the town. This has the advantage of covering a larger area. The downturn is an increased overall time of access to the town centre. Still, the fact that the line was built, segregated from car traffic with level crossings at major road junctions, creates the prerequisites for obtaining a high commercial speed. The overall travel time predicted for entire segment is 18 minutes.

The new route will be used by two lines, 3 and 6. They are supposed to operate every 20 minutes during the peak hours on working days, every 30 minutes outside peak hours and on weekends, but only every 45 minutes after 7 p.m. As the 2 lines will have a interlaced timetable, this will halve the headway on the common route. The low frequency during off peak times is the consequence of two phenomena that affect many municipalities in Poland, which have intensified during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine: a tight budget and the lack of drivers.

The lines started normal passenger operation from the 1st of September, following one week of free ride. On that day, a large reorganization of the town transport network took place. The number of trams lines increased from 5 to 7, with lines numbered from 1 to 6 operating during the whole week, while line 7 providing additional service during working days. It is worth noticing that on many branches of the tram network the number of lines operating increased from 2 to 3. Several bus lines were also modified, but in their case, the change is restricted only to the area where the new tram route opened. Like many other towns in Poland, Torun line network is very complex, with lines connecting directly all parts of the town. On the other hand, there is a disadvantage that lies in the fact that many of those routes have very low frequency.

A network scheme is available here: https://www.urbanrail.net/eu/pl/torun/torun.htm .

Before ending the article, it is worth mentioning the marketing campaign of local authorities to promote public transport with emphasis on environmental protection. Under the slogan “Recharge yourself with good energy” such advantages of using the new tram route were intensely promoted:

  • Modern transport
  • Zero emissions
  • Possibility of fast and convenient movement around the town

An entire set of events such as contests for children and public consultations were organized in the town, meant to raise awareness of the inhabitants of the benefits of using the new tram line and also of other means of ecological transport. It culminated with the festival at the inauguration of the line where several thousand people of all ages gathered.

In correlation with the slogan of achieving good energy, 10 shelters at tram stops received various decorations in order to have a positive impact on the passengers using them. The shelters even received informal names like “Smile Station”, “Kindness Station”, “Winged Station”, “Kind Word Station” and so on.

Let’s hope that in the future the public transport in Toruń will continue to be guided by “good energy”.

Different type of decoration of the tramway stops | © Silviu-Costin Iancu
Heritage tram service on the opening day | © Silviu-Costin Iancu
© Silviu-Costin Iancu