Friday, 2 May 2014


My Austrian tour in preparation of the new edition of my 'Tram Atlas Schweiz & Österreich' also took me to Linz for a few hours on 15 April 2014 to take some new photos, but there was nothing new to explore as I had visited this city in the summer of 2011, shortly after the extension to Doblerholz had opened.

With this extension, Linz now has a more spider-like network, whereas previously the system had consisted of a north-south trunk route with short branches. Still today, all three lines run along the same corridor through the city centre, which is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. The good thing is that all lines go directly into Landstraße, the main shopping street, the bad thing is that the journey through this pedestrianised street is rather slow and that there is no alternative route in case of disruptions. A second more easterly cross-city route has long been planned (even with long underground sections that I would consider a bit exaggerated for a city that size – about 200,000 inhabitants).

So while the journey through the city centre is slow, outer sections are almost always laid on a separate right-of-way with grass-covered track allowing higher speeds. I think all stops have proper platforms and all trams in service are low-floor (two generations of Bombardier's Cityrunner/Flexity Outlook). Like in Graz, the width of the vehicles is rather narrow, and trams do get packed frequently.

The tram tunnel under the railway station has now been in service for 10 years. The underground stop at Hauptbahnhof is well integrated into the railway station complex, one escalator (or lift, of course) brings passengers into the distribution level from where all rail platforms are accessible. The route then continues south serving another fully underground station at Unionkreuzung, followed by an open subsurface station at Herz-Jesu-Kirche. From there, the trams reach the surface via a ramp just north of one of the city's busiest crossroads at Bulgariplatz, where trams need to wait for their turn to cross. I cannot understand why the subsurface route was not extended beneath this crossroads to a ramp south of it, from where a dedicated right-of-way is available. If it was for the money, they could have built a ramp south of Unionkreuzung, a normal stop at Herz-Jesu-Kirche (saving the construction and maintenance of 4! lifts), and then a simple underpass under Bulgariplatz.

The line 3 extension which opened in 2011 includes another tunnel, which diverges just south of Hauptbahnhof station from the loop previously used by line 3 to reverse. This tunnel takes the trams quickly to Gaumberg and then to Harter Plateau, which actually lies in the neighbouring municipality of Leonding (although the centre of that town is a few km away). This tunnel was excavated by mining techniques, and I would have suggested to make it slightly longer to serve the area around Landesnervenklinik Wagner-Jauregg, a psychiatric hospital.

Linz has a very simple fare system, with vending machines basically offering only three types of tickets, Mini (short trip), Midi (single fare) and Maxi (24-hour ticket for 4 EUR). As of now, all tram and also all the trolleybus routes are covered by a Maxi ticket (things may change with the forthcoming line 3 extension to Traun).

But if you want to leave the central area of what is the OÖVV (Upper Austrian fare system), you may be lost. I have seen lots of websites by those transport agencies, but is one of the least useful to find out fares for more complicated journeys. Similar German systems offer an all-included day pass, so you don't have to worry anymore about fares, but OÖVV does not cater at all for daytrippers, it is all designed for commuters only. So here is a lot that needs to be improved. They just need to look around to see how other agencies do it and copy the positive things. It is no surprise then, that Upper Austria is now the only region in Austria that has made no effort to develop its regional rail system into an S-Bahn, a step all other regions have made, although in some cases it has just been a rebranding, but in almost all a very successful one. So all in all, Linz deserves a good mark (although I would prefer a dedicated website independent from other city services), while the rest of Upper Austria just gets a 'suficient'.


Linz Tram at UrbanRail.Net

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