Monday, 5 August 2013


The last stop on my Norway tour took me to Trondheim (2-4 Aug 2013), where there is a single tram line to explore. There is also a regular regional train that goes north from Trondheim on the non-electrified line to Bodø, reaching Steinkjer hourly on workdays, less frequent on weekends, with a stop at the airport (who knows why the station at the airport is not called Lufthavn or Airport or anything like that but Vaernes, when there is nothing else but the airport – or is Vaernes for Norwegians like 'Heathrow' or 'JFK'???). Also interesting on the transport side is Trondheim's bicycle lift, a peculiar mechanism that helps you climb the hill just east of the old bridge, but hardly anybody used it when I was there and it seems pretty tough, as you need to keep your right leg stiff for quite a while...

When I arrived in Trondheim and saw the track work going on at the city centre loop, I thought I wouldn't get a chance to ride the tram, as the timetable available also online said, that there would be replacement buses as long as these works last. So I set out to climb the hills to Lian on a bus and then explore the line walking down on foot. All by myself on this bus on a Saturday mid-morning, I was positively surprised when after a few minutes I had to change to the tram at Ila, where there is a track triangle so trams can reverse. I was also the only passenger on the tram, until a father and his two kids plus their three bicycles joined us at Munkvoll. The ride up the mountain was pretty fast and smooth. As the line is mostly single-track beyond Ila, trams meet at Nordre Hoem during 30-minute headways in the summer (trams run every 15 minutes during normal season). Two vehicles are enough for this 30-minute service.

The Gråkallbane, as it is traditionally known, carries the route number 1 in the AtB bus network, so unlike the NSB Lokaltog, it is fully integrated into the system. 85 NOK (11 EUR) are required for a 24-hour ticket, and 34 NOK for 90 minutes if bought from a machine – but funnily, there are hardly any ticket vending machines as such at bus stops (none at tram stops), but instead you need to search for a car parking ticket machine, which also sells bus tickets – but be aware that the tickets are valid from the time you buy them, so choose a vending machine near your bus stop! 24-hour tickets are also available at kiosks, but no idea how you activate them, I guess the driver does that as you have to show all tickets to them anyway.

The bus/tram map is a bit like that in Bergen, helps you to get a general idea, but otherwise horrible. At least it can be seen at some bus stops.

Back to the tram, or trikken as they say in Norway. The Gråkallbane is just a remainder of what used to be a slightly larger system until the rest was closed in the 1980s, also this line was closed in 1988 (a few years after they bought the present trams!), but as it only runs on city streets between the central loop and Ila, it was rescued and reopened two years later after popular demand (and the impossibility to sell the 2.6 m wide trams running on metre gauge). The largest part of the line, from Ila upwards, is on a seperate right-of-way running between the houses, not parallel to the roads. Up to Søndre Hoem you can enjoy a nice view of the city and Nidelva Valley. There are now some signs that a little upgrading is underway at some stops with more clearly defined platforms, whereas at some other stops the platform is a grass-covered affair, in the case of the inbound Bergsligata stop, for example, not recognisable at all, if it wasn't for a lonely tram stop pole without any further information located between the trees nearby. Many stops have wooden shelters with a small timetable, but in most cases, not even the name of the stop is displayed anywhere. The stops are announced visually and acoustically on the trams, though. But finding a stop in this low-density neighbourhood dominated by single-family homes is reserved for the locals. So, in many respects, the line is far below any standards expected from a modern light rail line, but looking at the sad political support it has had over many decades, it is a miracle it still exists. With the Bergen light rail now so popular, there may be some kind of envy reaction from the Trondheim politicians to do more for urban rail transport.

There have been proposals for an extension to the eastern suburbs, but considering the topography, this would require some tunnelling. Two routes, however, seem pretty obvious, the first is to extend the existing line east through the city centre and to the new docklands developments in the Nedre Elvehavn area and further out along the main road. A second route should no doubt run north-south from the railway station along Prinsens gate across the main north-south bridge (Elgeseter Bru) to an area to the south of the river where there is a large hospital complex plus a huge university campus (the southern part of which is served by Lerkendal station, the southern terminus of the aforementioned hourly regional train). Looking at the bus map, it becomes clear that the main bus corridor also runs south here and further on the Heimdal area, where there are quite dense housing estates. So, if Trondheim (180,000 inh.) finally decides to join the Scandinavian light rail boom, there is some potential here.


Trondheim Tram at UrbanRail.Net

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