• de
  • en

Difficult to understand: The future of Naumburg’s tramway is once again uncertain

Direct interchange facility to the railway at Hauptbahnhof - entrance to the right! | © Dirk Budach

Over the years, an unprecedented initiative involving very different bodies and people from the public sector, private industry and countless citizens had step by step achieved to save the small tramway system in Naumburg an der Saale, which was shut down in 1991. In 2007, the new company Naumburger Straßenbahn GmbH (NSB) under private law resumed public service on the first section of the former tram ring between the main railway station and the city centre. It did this without co-financing from the Burgenland district, as is otherwise usual for municipal bus operations, for example. Thanks to the support of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, the Naumburg tram was included in the state’s public transport subsidy programme, and the city of Naumburg has regularly contributed to the maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure ever since. The acceptance of low wages for staff, the income from fare revenues and many special trips, donations and the most economical business management have enabled a balanced budget in each case. The tram service between the main railway station and Salztor became a valued public transport service recognised far beyond the region and a popular figure in the Burgenland district and the city of Naumburg. In 2023, 238,000 passengers were counted on the route, which has now been extended to 2.8 km, a new record that exceeds expectations. And the numbers continue to grow.

A development concept drawn up with renowned planning offices not only sees the potential for 460,000 passengers a year, but also a significant increase in profitability if the frequency of train connections to and from Leipzig and Halle is increased. On average, a train stops in Naumburg every 6 minutes; only the trains to and from Erfurt and Saalfeld currently have an acceptable public transport connection every half hour.

In order to secure long-term funding, the management of the Naumburg tramway has been asking the Burgenland district for talks on a public service contract (PSC) as the basis for EU-compliant co-financing since 2019. In 2022, the Burgenland district confirmed for the first time that the Naumburg tram is not a tourist leisure service, but a classic public transport service. According to the Saxony-Anhalt Public Transport Act, the Burgenland district is responsible for ensuring local public transport.

According to the Saxony-Anhalt Public Transport Act, the Burgenland district is responsible for ensuring local public transport. In anticipation of a district council resolution to award a public service contract to NSB, the city of Naumburg assumed an additional compensation requirement for 2023. Discussions with the Burgenland district only became more concrete in March 2023. The talks came to a provisional end on 5 February 2024.

According to the NSB press release, the Burgenland district makes the co-financing of NSB’s operating costs dependent on its ability to control NSB as a shareholder. However, the relevant EU law allows the district to conclude a contract with NSB without being a shareholder itself. In many regions of the country, this is common practice in the case of bus services.

The district justifies its position vis-à-vis NSB that it wants to prevent NSB from publicly presenting proposals for improving the transport service without the agreement of the district. This applies in particular to proposals to introduce a 15-minute interval on the existing route from the main railway station to Salztor. From NSB’s point of view, the increased frequency can be an important signal for the successful further development of public transport in the city of Naumburg and also for sustainable tourism in view of the imminent connection to the S-Bahn, Naumburg’s excellent train connections, the largely utilised P+R car park at the main railway station and the tourist significance of the Saale-Unstrut region.

Current terminus Salztor | © Dirk Budach
Comprehensively refurbished tramcars in perfect operating condition – here at the depot | © Dirk Budach

The discussion also extends to the valuation of the GmbH’s assets and, in particular, the excellently refurbished, historic vehicles, which are not adequately taken into account in the valuation of the value of the company shares by the district.

The Naumburg tram has been able to establish itself as a useful public transport service, but also as part of the tourist offer over a long period of time and with a great deal of effort. A further expansion of the service can ensure its long-term survival. Thanks to an additional financial contribution from the city of Naumburg, the current tram timetable can be maintained for the whole of 2024 – but for the future from 2025 onwards, prompt decisions and an agreement between the parties involved are essential. The unquestionable importance of the small tramway for the city, its residents and its visitors should undoubtedly be the guiding principle here.

Another report in UTM about Naumburg’s tramway you can find here:

(Info: NSB, own research)