The tram network in Bordeaux

The tram network in Bordeaux is a system of transit that serves the metropolitan area of Bordeaux; at the end of 2007 it included three lines with a total length of 37 km.  After a long gestation period, the tram was reintroduced in the city in December 2003.  It had previously disappeared from the Bordeaux area in 1958 per the decision of the then mayor, Jacques Chaban-Delmas.

In 1995, the Urban Community of Bordeaux (CUB), which includes Bordeaux and suburban districts, decided to opt for the tram, foregoing the solution of an automated metro (VAL), whose cost would have been much higher. The creation of tramlines was accompanied by a heavy planning operation in central Bordeaux, which included renovation of the main buildings, and reorganization and beautification of the roads.

By the end of 2007, the trams averaged 165,000 passengers per day.  The second phase of the extension, in 2008, brought the length of the network to 43.9 km and 89 stations. The CUB has already initiated studies for a third phase of work, which could begin by 2012 if costs are adequately controlled.  This would add 17 km of new lines with the beginnings of a fourth line (Line D).

The cars used are low-floor Citadis with a length of 44 meters (Lines A and B) and 33 meters (Line C).  In implementing the network, the historic APS technique is used to capture ground power.  Thus, the need for an overhead line is avoided, and the urban landscape is not disfigured.

Beginning in the 1970s, it became clear that saturation of the roadways required the creation of a heavy transport system.  In 1975, the city of Bordeaux was approached within the context of a national study on the definition of a system of public transport.

The costs and capacities between buses and subways were compared, and an underground solution based heavily on the VAL automatic metro, the image of what had been developed at the time in Lille, was preferred.

After an abortive first draft in 1986, a less ambitious but more realistic plan in terms of financial capacity of the town was frozen in 1991.  This project saw a great deal of opposition and was finally abandoned in 1995.  This was largely because only a small fraction of the town was served despite the large investment; the new mode of transport could not serve the heights of the right bank.

The unfriendly nature of the basement tunnels, because the city is located on former wetlands, and the low density of the urban area contributed to disqualify the underground solution for Bordeaux. Moreover, this solution did not serve the campus located in Bordeaux, or the great majority of municipalities in Talence and Pessac (left bank). The same debate gave different results in towns of similar size, such as Toulouse, and those significantly smaller, such as Rennes.  At the time, both chose the VAL.

The launch of the tramway project

In 1995, a mayor particularly favourable of the tram, Alain Juppe, replaced Jacques Chaban-Delmas, who was deeply hostile, as the mayor of Bordeaux.  The new mayor immediately initiated the tramway project. It combined a heavy planning operation in the downtown including the restoration of major monuments, the redevelopment of the quays, and the complete overhaul of the roads for the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists.

Car parks were created on the outskirts of downtown to discourage cars from entering. The mayor was willing to return the city to pedestrians. The prohibition of traffic in the historic center was planned.

After two years of discussion, the Urban Community of Bordeaux (CUB) adopted the tramway project in 1997.  The project was declared a public utility in 2000.  The budget that had been adopted for achieving 10 km VAL achieved 44 km of tramlines in two phases (the second ending in 2008).