Condtinuing the Jack May Paris-based trip Kehl and Strassbourg

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Condtinuing the Jack May Paris-based trip Kehl and Strassbourg
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 1, 2019 8:29 AM

We then headed back to Brebach and found our auto undisturbed.  All in all our visit was quite enjoyable, and we found ridership to be quite heavy, especially within the city where there were often standees.  The 7½-minute headway needs to be increased, but I wonder if that is possible, considering that there's a great deal of traffic on the street running portion of the route.

It took about an hour and a half to cover the 80 miles from Brebach to Kehl, and we had no trouble checking in at our hotel, in this across-the-border suburb of Strasbourg, to which the tramway system had just been extended.  We were directed to park on the street, which turned out to be no problem.  In traversing the town's busy pedestrian street/mall we found an excellent restaurant that served regional cuisine and had a relaxing meal before retiring for the evening.  We had set foot in three different countries on this pleasant Tuesday.
Before sending out this portion of my trip report, I want to mention how pleased I am that voters in Phoenix, Arizona have defeated the proposition to amend the city charter to end construction of light rail in their city.  The campaign, orchestrated by the billionaire Koch brothers through a local right-wing group has apparently failed. In theelection:

Wednesday, August 22 dawned sunny and during breakfast we planned our day in Strasbourg, one of the principal cities that spearheaded France's light rail revolution.  But we also had some housekeeping to accomplish as we would be turning in our automobile and purchasing tickets for some of our intercity rail journeys scheduled for the remaining days of our trip.  So our first order of business was to walk across the street to the DB rail station and buy a ticket to Freiburg for the next morning and obtain reserved seats on a TGV to carry us to Besancon that afternoon.  We also bought all-zone day tickets for Strasbourg's tramway, which cost a measly 4.20 euros each.  Meanwhile, my Philips/Norelco electric shaver had given up the ghost and I needed to buy a replacement, and I knew it would remain at the back of my mind until I accomplished it.  After dealing with a live agent to buy our railroad tickets, we walked along the streetcar tracks to the attractive new Rhein bridge that carries the extension of tram line D from France to Germany and obtained some photos.  We rode an international tramway yesterday and were pleased that we soon would be riding another.

Here is a photo showing the bridge from the German side.  We would visit its western end later in the day.

A Citadis unit is shown crossing the Rhein, the international border between Strasbourg, France and Kehl, Germany, on this attractive arch bridge completed only a year before our visit.  A path for pedestrians and bicyclists runs along the north edge.  D cars run every 6 minutes on the French side, but every second one is short turned before the bridge.

While gasoline prices were roughly the same in both countries, those for diesel turned out to be significantly lower in Germany.  Thus we filled up for the last time at an Esso station and then crossed the Rhein to Strasbourg.  Europcar's office is across the street from the main railway station, but as we got close the one-way street pattern created a barrier for us, no doubt to discourage driving.  But we finally figured it out, but even then ended up passing the agency's storefront office a few times before we finally saw it.  After illegally "standing" at a curb nearby, I ran into the office and we were directed to an alleyway that led to the garage.  We had no problems with additional charges or any other issues and quickly said goodbye to our Fiat, which served us very well.  987 kilometers had been added to the odometer, meaning we had driven roughly 620 miles in the week we had it.

Strasbourg, the largest city in Alsace-Lorraine and the 7th largest in all France, has a population of about 275,000.  It is an ancient city, its roots dating back to Roman days in the first century, B. C.  Part of the Holy Roman Empire as a "free imperial city" since the 13th century, it became part of France in 1681.  With a partly medieval looking tourist area, its most important landmark is the cathedral, for over 200 years the world's tallest building.  Be that as it may, it attracts a constant stream of adherents and tourists to the city's "old town." 


Strasbourg inaugurated its first modern tram line in 1994, after a long fought campaign was won by a Socialist mayor when she defeated a conservative establishment candidate who wanted to build a rubber-tired VAL light metro.  Those who favored the surface tramway successfully showed the city's residents that streetcars were not old fashioned, no longer like the ones that trundled down Strasbourg's streets until 1960.  They would be the principal component of a plan that would calm (make that discourage) motor traffic in the congested historic city  Automobile lanes would be replaced with wider sidewalks and rows of trees would be planted.  Parking would be banned from the city center, certain streets would be pedestrianized, with the construction of the tramway accompanied by the establishment of park and ride lots at the edge of downtownParking would be banned from the city center, certain streets would be pedestrianized, with the construction of the tramway accompanied by the establishment of park and ride lots at the edge of downtown.  

The election was held in 1989, before 100-percent low-floor trams started to be rolled out, but that feature was very important, as accessibility was a major issue--and 70 percent level access was not good enough.  The city worked with Socimi to design a modernistic looking airy vehicle and the result was the Eurotram.  While the trams were under construction, the Italian company went bankrupt and Swedish-Swiss carbuilder ABB took up the slack, with the result being the delivery of 26 seven-section air-conditioned cars with extra wide doors, huge windows and a protruding glass front--in time for the start of service in 1994.  The Eurotram looked like no other streetcar built before and the city became very proud of its foresight and style.  While MAN built the industry's first 100 percent low-floor cars (for Bremen in 1990), the stylish Eurotrams, which came a few years later, ended up with more notoriety.

From a 6.1-mile long single line in 1994 the system has been expanded to a network of 6 routes (lettered A to F) reaching a length of almost 30 miles in 2019.  The roster of cars had to keep up with the expansion and now contains 105 active units.  That story is interesting as the industry was in the midst of major change at the time.  In 1998, Adtranz bought out ABB's carbuilding business and built 27 more Eurotrams: 10 seven-section cars like the originals, but also 17 nine-section units.  The original trams were able to pack in 285 passengers, but the expanded ones increased that capacity to 370. 

By the time Strasbourg had to buy even more cars, Bombardier had purchased Adtranz (2001) and had dropped the Eurotram, (first renamed as a version of the Flexity Outlook) from its catalog.  As a result competition ensued, and future orders for cars were won by Alstom, which designed a variant to their Citadis line to mimic the aesthetics and features of the Eurotram.  This was the 403, which has 7 sections, but is roughly the same length as 9-section Eurotrams.  Alstom delivered 41 of the new Citadis models starting in 2004 and 22 more from 2016.  That was more than enough cars to fill current needs, so the roster was pared down in 2018, with ten of the original units and one of the second group having thus far having been withdrawn from service. 

Headways are frequent, with trams running every 6 minutes on all lines except the F (10 minutes) from dawn to dusk on weekdays.  Stops are equipped with countdown clocks.  The most important things Karl-Heinz and I wanted to see were the extensions that stretched the network since our previous individual visits (I was there twice before).  We stayed in Kehl because it was at the end of an extension that returned the city's transit system to international status, having been placed into service at the end of April, 2017.  In fact the end of that line, which we photographed first thing in the morning, has since been pushed further east by one stop--accomplished at the end of last year.  The other two extensions which we had to ride were the A and D to Parc des Sports and Dante-Poteries respectively, inaugurated in 2013, and the other end of the A to Graffenstaden, which came on line in 2016 (see map at

Now to the day's transit activities.  Three tram lines serve the Gare Central, with the A and D running through a trolley subway while the C stub ends on the surface. 

A Citadis tram leaves the eastern portal of the Strasbourg's tram subway, which has but one underground stop, the railway station.  Two routes, the A and the D, use the mile-long tunnel. 


We then rode a C car from alongside the station to Homme de Fer, where the two trunk lines of the system cross, and then we walked to the cathedral (photo shown below). 

The huge Gothic Strasbourg Cathedral, built from 1176 to 1439, was described by Victor Hugo as a "gigantic and delicate marvel" and by Goethe as a "sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God," but critics complain of its "brutalist" architecture.  Be that as it may, it attracts a constant stream of adherents and tourists to the city's "old town." 
Homme de Fer is the crossroads of the system in the heart of shopping center of the city and serves 5 of the 6 lines.  Trams are scheduled to pass through every 36 seconds.  A Citadis tram is shown operating on route A. 

Additional walking allowed us other views of the tramway, and then we rode the A to its southern end, sandwiching our ride with photos of the cars in front of two more churches.

The Protestant Saint Nicolas church lies along one of Strasbourg's central canals and is served by routes A and D.  John Calvin led services and preached here, while Albert Schweitzer was pastor (and organist) from 1900 to 1913.  But due to the decline of mainstream Christianity the church no longer has a parish, but is rather rented out to a charismatic group for Sunday services.  A Citadis tram heads southward.

At the other end of the A line, in the suburb of Illkirch-Graffenstanden, the twin-steepled neo-Romanesque St. Symphorien anchors the community.  The Catholic church was built in 1865, but its towers were not completed until 1892.  A Citadis tram heads away from the camera on what I suspect is the only bi-directional single-track section on Strasbourg's route network. 

Then it was back through downtown (but with a stop to buy a replacement Philips shaver at the Galeries Lafayette) to the other end of the A (and the D line).

Before completing our plans to get back to the Rhein we had enough time to ride out to the University and the European Parliament on routes E and F.  Oddly enough up until now (for the most part) we had only ridden and photographed Citadis cars.  This changed as we frequented the E and F lines, which are served by Strasbourg's iconic Eurotrams, through a modern neighborhood of intergovernmental institutions.  While I thought the Quartier Européen, out in the Wacken section of the city was rather acetic looking and could use a little warmth, I also couldn't help noticing that one thing it has going for itself is its excellent electric rail transit service.

The A and D lines, which run through Strasbourg's tram subway, were pushed further westward from their former terminal at Dante over two new branches in 2013.  An inbound Citadis unit is shown along the beautifully-landscaped center reservation of Avenue Racine between Le Galet and the A-line's new end station, Parc des Sports.

The Louise Weiss building, home of the European Parliament, was built in 1999.  It houses the Hemicycle, the largest auditorium in Europe, with 785 seats for elected members and 680 more for visitors, along with 18 other meeting rooms and over 1000 offices.  Its sits at the confluence of the Ill River and the Marne-Rhein Canal (which British diplomats may have to swim across when Brexit takes effect).

This outbound Eurotram on route E has just turned off Boulevard de Dresde onto private right-of-way alongside apedestrian walk and bikeway adjacent to the basin separating this land mass from the Parliament building.  I should mention that when I first rode these double-ended cars almost a quarter century ago, I had trouble finding their doors--both from inside and outside.

Above  and below:  Further along the section of prw that runs along the water, the line crosses the Ill on a wooden-planked bridge and enters the Droits de l'Homme stop.  Droits de l'Homme translates to Human Rights, and the buildings shown in both Route E Eurotram photos are concerned with this subject.  The award-winning European Court of Human Rights is featured in the lower view, while the upper photo shows the headquarters of the Council of Europe, which, according to Wikipedia, is the organization that monitors matters that include torture, racism, intolerance, protection of children from sexual abuse and trafficking in human beings (all of which I presume they are against). 

Above and below:  These views show Citadis trams crossing the two bridges on Route D.  The smaller, spanning the Vauban Basin of the Rhone-Rhine Canal involved quite a long walk from the Aristide Briand stop through an area that will be developed for housing and its support services.  The Port du Rhin stop is almost directly under the international bridge that crosses the Rhein.  Alternate route D trams terminate here, so travel to and from Kehl operates only every 15 minutes.

Finally, our last achievement of our day involved a close look at Route D's two bridges from their western ends.  First we rode to the Aristide Briand stop and walked to the structure that crosses the Rhein-Rhone Canal, and then after returning, we rode a bit further, to the Port du Rhin stop to observe and photograph the international bridge across the Rhein.  The area is ripe for Transit Oriented Development and tall apartment buildings are planned for the area around two uncompleted stops, Citadelle and Starcoop.
All in all, we had a busy, fruitful day.  We returned to the same restaurant we visited on the previous evening for dinner and retired early. 

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