Aubagne Tram – The Economy Tram

Light Rail can be built cheaply, if there is the political and bureaucratic will is there to ensure LRT is built economically.

At first glance the Aubagne tramway is very expensive, costing ai??i??166 million or CAD $235 million to build, but only for 2.7 km., which works out to an expensive $87 million/km. to build. The original length of the Aubagne tramway was to be 14 km. long, but politics, Conservative politicians greatly reduced the scope of construction.

Sound familiar, a la the Canada Line?

If one extrapolated the cost over a full 14 km. of line, including the cost of new track and overhead at CAD $15 million/km. ;CAD $109 million and the addition of eight more cars at a cost ofAi?? USD $18.3 million or CAD $20.54 million, the cost of a $14 km. line could be as low as $364.5 million or $26 million/km.; a very reasonable and affordable cost indeed!

Affordable LRT, something that TransLink in Vancouver or BC Transit in Victoria does not want the public to know.


The Citadis cars mentioned in the article are modular cars and capacity can be increased by adding more modules, which is cheaper than buying new cars.

FRANCE: The Aubagne tramway entered commercial service on September 1.

The 2Ai??7 km (1.67 mile) line runs from Le Charrel to the main railway station with seven stops.

Aubagne is the first city to use Alstoms Citadis Compact tram.

According to the manufacturer, this is specially designed to meet the needs of medium-sized networks in cities of 50 000 to 100 000, and
secondary lines.

The 22 m (72.1 foot) long vehicles have a capacity of 146 passengers.

The Pays dAubagne et de lEtoile region ordered a fleet of eight trams, with an option for five to 10 more, for 14m (USD $18.3 million) in October

The original plan was for a 14-kilometre (8.69 mile) network but the victory of conservative elements in the March 2014 city election resulted in everything besides the starter lien being shelved. Here is the “international railway journal” story: <

Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Aubagne opens zero-fare tramway Written by Keith Barrow

AUBAGNE, a town of 46,000 inhabitants situated east of Marseille, inaugurated its first light rail line on September 1.

Like the town’s bus network, no fares are charged for travel on the tram line, making it the first free-to-use light rail system in France and one of the first in Europe.

The 2.7km (1.67 mile) line has seven stations and links the main line station in Aubagne with Charrel. Construction began in early 2013 and the project had a budget of ai??i??166m (CAD $235 million) including rolling stock.

Zwei notes: This works out to CAD $87 million/km to build, including rolling stock, engineering and service depot. A longer line would incrementally cost less.

Services operate at 10-minute intervals using a fleet of 10 Citadis Compact low-floor LRVs.

The 22m-long (72.1 foot)) three-section vehicles accommodate up to 125 passengers.

The Urban Community of Pays d’Aubagne et de l’Etoile decided in April that it would not proceed with construction of the second or third phase of the network, although the community’s president Mrs Sylvia BarthAi??lAi??my announced at the opening ceremony that the municipal government will study the reopening of the 14km (8.69 mile) Valdonne railway north of Aubagne as a light rail line.

The proposed line would serve an area with a population of 60,000, linking Aubagne with Roquevaire, Auriol, La Destrouse, and La Bouilladisse.

At present there are around 18,000 car journeys a day on the road between Aubagne and La Bouilladisse, and 110,000 vehicles per day use the motorway linking the area with Marseille.


5 Responses to “Aubagne Tram – The Economy Tram”
  1. Haveacow says:

    The city or Aubagne Region, is a very interesting place. The have elected several openly communist mayors, many city services, including public transit are free. They have one of the highest debt to revenue ratios of any community in France (3rd highest according to Wikipedia) and a property tax rate 30% higher than the average french city. Yet, the majority of the people are happy, although they have been warned by the national government that there will be no money to complete line #1 of their LRT system for a considerable time, until their municipal finances are under control. The centre right mayor and council is under fire from mostly their wealthy supporters because they proposed to cut too much municipal spending and the middle and lower class voters want more tax breaks and less spending. Everyone is more than a little ticked that, the LRT line was cut back so more road repairs could be done and the planned purchase of several new buses for the pubic transit agency has been nixed.

    I have to admit to being a little shocked that this was the first order of Alstom’s Citadis Compact LRV, considering the enormous number of orders for the various 5 and 7 module ” full sized LRV models”. Also it maybe just me but, I find it quite curious that a 22-23 metre LRV (75 feet) is considered compact when the vast majority of public transit buses sold worldwide are 12 metres (40 feet) or smaller and the simple diesel bus is by far the most common public transit vehicle on the planet.

  2. Rico says:

    Nice logic….so apart from the need to only expand the operations and maintainance yard instead of building a new one and some minor signaling/communication equipment savings what do you think the difference in costs between your (pie in the sky) estimate and their actual costs comes from? Ps for your info if they have 8 trams to run a 3km line at 10min frequency it seems unlikely they will be able to maintain 10min frequencies with only 8 extra trams for a 14km line. That said seems like a nice system, be interesting to see how the free fare system works. Nice to see people valuing public transportation.

    Zwei replies: You sound like TransLink, in the dark how a transit line should be run.

  3. Rico says:

    Looked into it a bit more. The 166M Euros was supposed to be for the whole system. The complete Line 1 was supposed to cost 122M Euros (the portion that was built was supposed to cost 79M Euros but actual cost was 100M Euros). Line 2 was supposed to cost an additional 42M Euros. It should be noted that about 1/2 the length of line 2 is actually track sharing with line 1 so the system will not have 14km of track.

    Zwei replies: Rico, I never said that the line had 14km of track and if you actually read the article, I extrapolated the cost on top of what was already spent. Funny rico, you seem not to take the time to actually investigate SkyTrain and the Canada Line, which no one buys or copies. Could it be that both have serious financial ills that are not being reported. Is it a coincidence that Translink’s financial debacle came on stream with th Canada line and the U-Pass?

  4. eric chris says:

    Despite the cost, the tram looks very cool at least. I like it, and it makes much more sense to keep transit at grade in earthquake prone Vancouver! It saves lives if that matters to anyone at TransLink and it clearly does not.

    Here is a timely email sent to the Vancouver Sun a few years ago. Apparently, TransLink intervened and Harold of the Vancouver Sun never got too far at doing a story on trams for Vancouver… oh well.

    From: Munro, Harold (Vancouver Sun)
    Sent: Sunday, October 07, 2012 10:05 PM
    To: Eric Chris
    Subject: Re: tram outclasses skytrain for evergreen line

    As a reporter covering transit 15 years ago in this region, I wrote about several similar studies for The Sun that reached assorted conclusions — based entirely on the chosen inputs of those conducting the studies.
    Nothing ever changes in that regard.
    Thanks for the heads up on the latest study. We will take a look at it.
    I must disagree with about the relationship between transit and development.
    Transit should help shape development if you want to control sprawl and ensure an efficient transportation system.
    The fatal flaw in this region, in my opinion, that TransLink and regional planning (Metro Vancouver regional district) are separate bodies and neither is directly elected. Further, the ruling provincial government of the day — Liberal or NDP — frequently injects itself into regional transportation and planning decision making, particularly as elections draw near.

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Oct 7, 2012, at 9:47 PM, “Eric Chris” wrote:
    Allen Garr et al,
    SkyTrain is by far the worst possible alternative for the proposed Evergreen Line from Burnaby to Coquitlam in Metro Vancouver. Here are some highlights from a recent UBC research paper comparing tram lines and light rail transit (LRT) lines to SkyTrain lines:

    Total cost per trip (Figure 22 on page 10 of research paper):
    Tram = $3.04 (best)
    LRT = $7.64
    SkyTrain = $12.34 (worst)

    Total cost per passenger mile (Figure 21 on page 10 of research paper):
    Tram = $1.22 (best)
    LRT = $1.68
    SkyTrain = $2.66 (worst)

    Lifecycle carbon emissions per passenger mile (page 7 of research paper):
    Tram = 32.59 (best)
    LRT = 51.6
    SkyTrain = 156.3 (worst)

    Energy use in kWh per passenger mile (page 5 of research paper):
    Tram = 0.11 (best)
    LRT = 0.13
    SkyTrain = 0.30 (worst)

    Number of passengers by transit mode (page 4 of research paper):
    Tram = 155 (close second best)
    LRT = 178 (best)
    SkyTrain = 105 (worst)

    By any measure and by a huge margin, modern tram lines are superior to outdated SkyTrain lines. Tram lines move more people and use much less energy than SkyTrain lines. Tram lines are much more economical than SkyTrain lines, and on an trip by trip basis, SkyTrains are 306% more expensive than trams to operate. SkyTrain isn’t just a financial disaster; however, SkyTrain is also an environmental disaster.

    According to the UBC research paper, carbon emissions for a SkyTrain line ultimately exceed carbon emissions for a tram line by 380%. All SkyTrain lines require extra diesel buses to shuttle transit users to the distantly spaced SkyTrain stations. When carbon emissions from these diesel buses are included, carbon emissions by SkyTrain are far worse than the UBC research paper suggests. Moreover, SkyTrain lines rely on redundant rapid bus routes (articulated diesel or hybrid diesel bus routes) to fill in the gaps of the SkyTrain network and to connect SkyTrain lines (99 B-Line route operating underneath existing trolley bus lines in Vancouver, for instance).

    These rapid bus routes, which would not be necessary with tram lines, often operate in parallel to existing bus routes and increase carbon emissions tremendously. From an environmental perspective, tram lines are far more effective in the fight against climate change than SkyTrain lines – SkyTrain lines are lemons.

    SkyTrain is inconvenient to use and deters transit use (by drivers who don’t have to take transit) – most transit users don’t live near a SkyTrain station and have to walk a long distance or transfer from a bus to reach a remote SkyTrain station located every two kilometres apart in distance on average. Tram lines have closely spaced stops and result in faster overall trip times than SkyTrain lines for the vast majority of transit users because the bus transfer or long walk required for the SkyTrain line is avoided. Really, SkyTrain is being promoted by certain individuals who won’t admit that it is terrible mistake because if they do, they will be out of a job.

    Supposed urban planning and transportation guru, Gordon Price of SFU, as well as self professed transportation expert and City of Vancouver Councillor, Geoff Meggs have little credibility and don’t know the first thing about civil, electrical or mechanical engineering to give any worthwhile advice on the efficient design of transit networks; yet, they never miss the opportunity to support more taxes to pay for more SkyTrain when simply cutting our losses to switch to tram lines would be the shrewd move.

    Perhaps their inflated egos just prevent them from admitting that they are wrong about SkyTrain. Gordon Price and Geoff Meggs are entitled to express their simple thoughts in the media; however, for the media to ignore technically qualified university professors and professional engineers who disagree with Gordon Price, Geoff Meggs and the rest of the Mickey Mouse club at TransLink is censorship. For the media to withhold the truth and to print lies favouring SkyTrain is tantamount to propaganda, and the media appears to be promoting SkyTrain for TransLink to reward the media with thousands to millions of dollars annually in bribes advertising.

    Peter Fassbender who is the vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council has capitulated with TransLink to obtain his rapid bus route for Langley. He is a toady for TransLink, and it is disgusting to read articles about Peter Fassbender wanting to raise taxes for more SkyTrain lines by TransLink. SkyTrain is a scam as far as doing anything significant to reduce vehicle use (it does reduce some vehicle use but it also reduces walking and cycling, too). SkyTrain is primarily being used to spur development along SkyTrain lines for developers to profit. This is not the purpose of transit; the purpose of transit is to move students, retirees… tourists in a cost effective and sustainable manner.

    After the Canada Line fiasco (SNC Lavalin submitted a low bid to win the job and then open cut rather than bore Cambie Street to save money while businesses on Cambie Street paid the price and went bankrupt as a result) – it is incredible to see TransLink attempting to build another SkyTrain line (Evergreen Line) with SNC Lavalin – unbelievable. The depth of depravity at TransLink is amazing. Because TransLink is spending too much on SkyTrain lines, conventional transit is being sacrificed, consequently:

    • TransLink operates diesel buses on trolley bus routes to save money and air quality suffers to increase respiratory and heart diseases
    • TransLink reduces the budget for buses to save money and transit buses become overcrowded at peak hours
    • TransLink gouges drivers and homeowners who are unfairly taxed to pay for over priced SkyTrain lines

    Fundamentally, TransLink is a make work program created to increase employment. Not one inch of the proposed Evergreen Line will be built by existing TransLink staff. Everyone at TransLink could be purged and the new palace being built to house the 500 staff at TransLink in New Westminster could be sold to raise cash for transit. TransLink is an awful drain on the economy and employs overpaid economists, planners… accountants who are not required to operate transit. In March of 2012, Shirocca Consulting ranked TransLink as the worst run transit organization in Canada – transit could only improve if current Metro Vancouver staff replaced everyone at TransLink – at least Metro Vancouver is staffed by competent planners and engineers who are in touch with the communities in the Lower Mainland.

    This isn’t a game; people are being harmed and cheated when the bungling buffoons (accountants and economists) making the decisions at TransLink commit to build more SkyTrain lines with money raised by taxing drivers and homeowners. Do your readers a big favour and write the truth for a change – expose TransLink for what it is – a sick organization headed by corrupt individuals building SkyTrain lines when tram lines would lower carbon emissions from transit and lower personal taxes for transit. Here is the UBC research paper for your perusal:


  5. eric chris says:

    Until we purge Metro Vancouver of the fools who are in charge of transit, there is little hope of any reduction in road congestion here. When urban planners go berserk with high urban density to replace a number of single family homes containing 10 cars and a couple of transit users with high rise towering condos having 300 drivers and 50 transit users, of course the buses can’t handle the demand and mass transit is necessary.

    While mass transit, such as a subway or s-train, accommodates the increased demand for transit from the excessive increase in population density along towering condo developments, transit by TransLink does absolutely nothing to accommodate the added drivers who live in the towering condo developments and who have to use the same roads.

    This is what has made Vancouver the most road congested city in Canada. Gordon Price and other SFU architects of transit by TransLink don’t understand that transit by TransLink is the cause of our worsening road congestion. At the same time, families are not willing to live in “transit oriented condo slum-communities” to raise kids in tiny condos and crime riddled neighbourhoods around s-train hubs. Families are fleeing Vancouver for the safety of surrounding communities in Surrey, Delta and Langley where single family home construction is booming. Bunglers at TransLink aren’t reducing road congestion with s-trains and high rise condos – they are exasperating road congestion with subways and s-trains.

    Nevertheless, what’s the proposed solution to this stupidity by TransLink? More funding to perpetuate the vicious cycle of “transit oriented communities” creating the exodus to the suburbs and urban sprawl in Metro Vancouver. Ian Jarvis, “accountant” in charge of transit in Metro Vancouver has his head up his ass.

    Electric vehicles are becoming common. I truly don’t see how telling drivers in electric vehicles to hop on carbon emitting diesel buses operated by TransLink is doing anything to reduce carbon emissions. Should my nurse friend at VGH sell her electric Nissan Leaf to ride carbon emitting buses by TransLink? She doesn’t have the time to waste for one, and second, she can’t take transit at 4 am after her shift ends. I also don’t see how taking a very long time to reach a s-train station or B-line hub, to then ride on the s-train at 40 kph or 99 B-line at 22 kph is faster than driving at 100 kph on Highway 91 for my friend commuting from Vancouver to work in Surrey. Transit is fast, for whom, someone who can’t drive?

    Transit by the “planners” at TransLink is based on the following very simple and naive formula: fast and frequent transit in the form of s-trains, b-lines and subways = fewer drivers on the roads. It’s wrong.

    Here is the correct formula: creeps and crime on automated s-trains, frequent b-lines and subways as well as the inconvenience and hassles of making it to a transit stop (on a cold and rainy night, for instance) to wait for a transit bus or train (however short the wait might be) in Metro Vancouver = more drivers on the roads. That’s it.

    Planners at TransLink have spent close to $10 billion on s-trains and haven’t even figured out the correct formula guiding transit use in Metro Vancouver. We have to get rid of the idiots at TransLink, now.

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