Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Coast Tram (Dutch: De Kusttram)

The Coast Tram (Dutch: De Kusttram) is a public transport service connecting the cities and towns along the entire Belgian (West Flanders) coast, between De Panne near the French border andKnokke-Heist. At 68 km (42 miles) in length, it is the longest tram line in the world, as well as one of the few interurban tramways in the world to remain in operation. The line is built atmetre gauge and fully electrified at 600 V d.c.


The first section of the track between Oostende and Nieuwpoort was brought into service in 1885, although the original route was further inland than the modern one and only short sections in Oostende and Nieuwpoort centres are still in operation. On its creation, the line was managed by the NMVB (National Neighbourhood Railway Company). In 1991, the NMVB/SNCV was broken into two regional companies, one Walloon and the other Flemish, with the Flemish successor company, Vlaamse Vervoermaatschappij De Lijn taking responsibility for operation of the coastal tram.


The Belgian Coast Tram near Ostend

The service makes 70 stops along the 68 km long line, with a tram running every ten minutes during the peak summer months (every 20 mins in the winter months), during which it is used by over 3 million passengers. The service has recently been made more accessible through the addition of low-floor centre sections to existing vehicles, and the introduction of a few new HermeLijn low-floor trams. While most of the older trams are unidirectional, and thus have to be turned on a loop in order to reverse direction, the newer ones are bi-directional, with driving positions and doors on both end/sides. An interesting feature is the two alternative routes that exist around either end of the Leopoldkanaal locks just east of Zeebrugge, and the similar single track diversion around the inland end of the Boudewijnkanaal lock. This avoids delays to the tram schedule when the road bridge that the tram line normally follows is raised for boats passing under it. A similar feature exists at the southern end of Ostend station around the lock entrance to the Vlotdok.

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