Thursday, 14 May 2015


The last stop on my April/May 2015 tour through Eastern Spain took me to Zaragoza, where a new tramway opened in 2011. Quite rightly, it is considered the most successful in Spain and during my short stay I saw many trams packed and almost overcrowded, so the only real thing I would dare to criticise is that they should have thought on how to increase capacity on the central section. Running mostly every five minutes except between 10:00 and 13:00, when a 7-minute service is provided, the offer is already quite good, but not enough considering the popularity of the tram. Like in Marseille, they should have extended the tram vehicles by now, from 5 to 7 modules, which would add some extra capacity, or reduce headways on the central section, with every other tram turning back at García Abril in the north where an easy loop could be built as the tracks up to this point are on parallel streets. The section beyond that point is less busy, as a large urban development apparently planned in 1998-2001 as a huge sign still indicates did not materialise around the Juslibol stop. At the southern end, trams remain rather busy up to the terminus at Mago de Oz (The Wizard of Oz) in the new district of Valdespartera where all streets carry names of film classics, so it's quite funny to hear 'Next Stop: Singing in the Rain'.
     Otherwise, the tram has a very French-style alignment, completely on a dedicated lane, partly marked off and partly on a lawnbed, I think just between Plaza de España and César Augusto, some vehicles may invade the route to access local shops etc. Between Plaza Aragón and Emperador Carlos V, as well as at Los Olvidados, there is a sort of Rambla (promenade) between the tracks. To reduce the visual impact of overhead lines, the city centre and the Ebro River are crossed in battery mode: 

Traffic-light preemption seems to work fine, so there are generally no annoying delays at road intersections, but a continuous journey with an acceptable speed. There are no unnecessary curves, and the CAF trams are generally better in curves anyway than the Citadis. To achieve this, however, the area inside the trams occupied by the bogies looks rather bulky, with only two face-to-face seats on each side mounted in this area. But otherwise the trams appear wide and spacious, and the wooden seats were quite o.k. for my back, despite their ergonomic shape (must be someone else then suffering with a different body shape...). 

     The stops all have a similar modern style, with a ticket machine and an information panel, plus an electronic next-tram indicator. The ticket machine only issues single tickets (€1.35) and allows recharging of the Tarjeta Bus, which unfortunately can only be bought for €2 at limited outlets, which can be a challenge for visitors, when they could be sold at kiosks or hotels as they initially carry €5 of stored value. While single tickets are just for one tram ride, the Tarjeta Bus allows transfers within one hour for just €0.74 per ride. And as the system cannot tell the difference, you can actually get on and off the tram for photos without paying another fare, but make sure you hold it against the card reader each time you board!

     There have been plans for a second line, running east west and actually sharing tracks with L1 on a short section between Plaza de España and César Augusto. While two branches are planned for the eastern end, I'm quite worried why they don't consider a branch going to the new railway station Delicias, which is a bit out of the way, although linked by some buses. But it must be the taxi lobby that is strong on keeping public transport away from a major public transport hub. Another reason could be that some think that the existing Cercanías line is enough to take long-distance travellers further into the city centre. But with virtually no metropolitan region outside the city proper, this line runs very irregularly, at times only once an hour! I'm not quite sure, because I didn't check it either, but I think that broad-gauge trains now have only one track in the city tunnel, while the other track was rebuilt for passing standard-gauge AVE (high-speed) trains. Please leave a comment if I'm wrong on this question!

     So with the first line so successful, let's hope that the second line will soon be built now that the country is slowly recuperating from the 'crisis', and that it will be done to the same good standard as the first line, clearly taking away road space from car drivers, but adding to what is a surprisingly lovely city.

     Bus maps were available at several outlets, but too small to be legible. The map also shows the tram line, but without any stop names. While tram maps are posted at stops, I haven't seen a place where I could ask for one.


Zaragoza Tram at UrbanRail.Net


  1. You are right with regards to the city tunnel. Originally it had two tracks in broad gauge. Due to the construction of the Madrid - Barcelona HSL, one track was converted to standard gauge and the other one was left with broad gauge (the same happened in Lleida city tunnel).

    Moreover, when the new Goya station was added in the city centre a few years ago, an island platform was built for the broad gauge track. The construction of the station also included making space for a second track in broad gauge, but although its space was prepared, this second track has not been installed and therefore there is an island platform with just a track on one of its sides. It wouldn't be expensive to add the second track and its benefits would be great, allowing trains to cross in this station.

    Finally, let me add that, although the Cercanías (commuter train) service between Casetas and Miraflores (C-1) has low frequencies, passengers can also use regional trains on the same route paying Cercanías tariffs. Regional and Cercanías trains stop in the same stations, so in the end frequencies are not so bad, at least between Delicias and Miraflores stations. You can check train schedules visiting this link:

    I hope I've helped you, great blog by the way.

    1. Carlos, thanks for confirming my assumption about the city tunnel. I did look at the Cercanías timetable, but although it shows several trains an hour during peak times, at 10, 12, 13 there is only one, followed by trains at close intervals at 14.20, 14.26, 14.36, 14.50, pretty irregular for an urban use. Let's hope they add the second track at Goya and establish some kind of urban shuttle between Delicias and Miraflores or at least Goya (as Miraflores seems to lie a bit off the track, too).

  2. I read your blog and Urbanrail and I congratulate him. I want to clarify that the reason why the trams run overloaded are the conditions agreed with the streetcar company, which has no obligation to increase the capacity up to 90,000 passengers / day are not met. On the other hand I think the network scheme of Urbanrail is wrong because the line of FC Teruel labeled part of the "Barcelona" and the graph is the former before the arrival of the AVE. Regards. Javier Peña-Gonzzalvo

    1. Gracias, Javier, I hope I have fixed the rail lines correctly.

  3. It's very interesting reading to the creator of (formerly about my city's Tram. Your analysis is quite good, only a small correction: in the central area without wires, the system is not based in batteries but in ultracapacitors.

    I do fully agree with you regarding the link to the Delicias Station (Main Railroad & Bus Station of the city). Cercanías is not enough because of the frequecies and also because of the location of central stations. Line 2 should get closer to the Station.

    It's not an easy decision while the route planned will have lots of passangers because it crosses a very dense area, however taking the line slighly more on the north using Navara Av to get closer to the station and then going South to the original route using Rioja St. will be a compromise: close enough to the dense area, and with a stop 50m far from the Departures side of the station. The problem is that the station is huge and should have three stops to get to Arrivals, Departures and Bus Station. Maybe taking South direction on Ramiro I St. the three key parts of the station will be covered, but getting further from the dense area of the Delicias district.

    Thank you, Pedro

    1. Hi Pedro, thanks for your comment. I wasn't really aware that there is a difference between a battery and an ultracapacitor, but obviously you are right (!

      As for Delicias, you are also right, it is a very huge station, and although very impressive by its huge supportless structure, I thought it must be a bit unpractical for everyday use as the stairs and escalators and lifts down to the platforms are located only at the very end of the probably 400 m long platforms. So, indeed, a possible tram should loop around the building serving several stops. I guess L2 as currently planned to the west should be maintained as is, but a branch should be built to Delicias, after all L2 will also have two branches at its eastern end. The Delicias branch could later be extended across the river to the Expo area and link up with L1 ...

    2. Yes, you're right: a second branch will be a good solution. It will balance with the other line side, so there will be 2 new lines with a common central part providing a higher frequency to the most demanded central segment.

      For the Station there could be a solution. Just in the middle of the station there's a pedestrian transfer tunnel that communicates, perpendicullary to the tracks, the North and Sout parking and therefore all the platforms, there's a common access for departures and arrivals, and the bus station. This transfer tunnel has an exit to the South Side of the station where originally was planned a open air Railway Museum. Unfortunately that was cancelled and we have a huge promenade completely empty.

      One branch could separate the other in Madrid Av, continue to the north in Rioja St. or Ramiro I St., cross Navarra Av. and then have the tram stop in that empty promenade using that tunnel that is a very useful access to all the parts of the station, but slightly unknown.

      In the future that branch could be the seed of a circle line or simply an extension to connect through the Expo with L1.




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