Wednesday, December 19, 2012

History Of Trams in Ghent (Belgium)

Horse-drawn trams appeared in Gent in 1874. The rolling stock consisted of 43 carriages, 14 of them open and the other 29 closed, with 100 horses used to draw them. The horse-drawn trams were operated by Les Tramways de la Ville de Gand, which existed until 1897.

On August 13 of 1897 operating concessions were issued to the Société Anonyme des Railways Éonomiques de Liège-Seraing et Extensions (RELSE) and the Compagnie Générale des Railways à voie étroite (CGR). These companies merged on January 4, 1898 to form the SA des Tramways Electriques de Gand. The aim of this move was to replace horses by electric traction, as well as the further usage of the tram network. It was also decided to use battery-powered trams, since they did not require unsightly overhead lines.

The power of battery operated trams was 25 hp. Each tram carried 45 passengers. The maximum speed of each was 12 km/h; by law, the operator was not allowed to travel any faster. A special 600 kW generating station was built to charge the batteries of these trams.

However, battery traction was operationally unsuccessful, so in 1903 a decision was made to install overhead electrification. The first trams powered by overhead lines entered service in 1904. This date marks the birth of a tramway in Gent. From 1904 to 1961 the system was operated by "Tramway Electriques de Gand" (TEG).

During the process of electrification, the rail gauge size was reduced from 1435 mm to 1000 mm.

In the 1960s the tram network of Gent decreased rapidly, there were eleven routes (1-10, 20) in 1961. By 1974 there were just four; the route to Melle closed on New Year's Eve, 1973.

In 1961 the tram property was transferred from the TEG Tramway Electriques de Gand to the MIVG (Maatschappij voor Intercommunaal Vervoer te Gent) municipal organization.

Until 1974 the archaic two/three-axle trams "de oude gele tramkes" (old little yellow trams) were used on Gent's tram network. During their working life, they were rebuilt and refurbished several times.

Plans for a Premetro were made in the 1970s but were abandoned.

In 1989 the trolleybus operated along the former tram route 3. In June 2009, the trolleybus stopped running, and under the Pegasusplan the route will revert to tram operation.

In 1991, the MIVG tram undertaking became part of De Lijn.

In the 1990s Gent's tram system started to expand again. In 1993 route 21 was extended to Melle Leeuw.

In 1999, routes 21/22 were extended from Sint-Pieters to Zwijnaardebrug, near the E40 motorway; a further extension to Zwijnaarde-Dorp south of the E40 is scheduled to open in 2012. The last extension to the network (to date) took place on April 15, 2005, when route 1 was extended to the Flanders Expo complex.

Starting in 1998, the modernization of Gent PCC trams took place, this modernization featured the completely new interior, separate driver's cab, and better air conditioning equipment.

Since 2000, the Gent tram network started to receive new generation Low Floor tram stock, these trams were named HermeLijn (a pun on the Dutch word for ermine). Prior to this, such trams were supplied in Antwerp. Unlike Antwerp, PCC trams used in Gent are double-ended. HermeLijn in Gent, of the first order have serial number 6301 — 6314. In 2005 another order of 17 HermeLijn trams arrived in Gent (6315 — 6331). Another ten arrived in 2007 (6332 - 6341).

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