Berne Municipal Transport Authority - Description

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Berne, capital of Switzerland is located in the western part of the country and has approximately 135,000 inhabitants. Its picturesque "old town" is situated on a promontory and is surrounded on three sides by a bend of the Aare River. The short meter gauge tramway network (14 km long) is supplemented by other suburban railway lines.


The first tramway service in Berne (Bärengraben-main station-Friedhof ) dates back to 1890 and was operated by the private "Berner Tramway-Gesellschaft" company. Its vehicles were driven by means of compressed air (!) using the same system as in Paris. Due to problems with the compressed air system, the second line (Länggasse-Wabern) was opened in 1894 using more reliable steam railcars, some of which still exist. The tramway network was taken over by the municipality of Berne in 1900 and renamed the "Städtische Strassenbahn Bern." Electric traction began to gain acceptance in the ensuing years and the new line from Burgernziel to Breitenrain started operation in 1901 using electric railcars. The steam-powered lines were also electrified earlier on. A new link from the main station to Brückfeld was established in the summer of 1908. Additional lines were built in 1910 (Breitenrain-Papiermühlestrasse), 1912 (main station-Belpstrasse) and 1923 (Belpstrasse-Fischermätteli). Trolley-busses proved to be more economical on lines with insufficient passenger loads, and consequently, the first tramway route (main station-Bärengraben) was taken out of service in 1940. After the merger of the trolley-bus and tramway companies in 1947 and the foundation of the "Städtischen Verkehrsbetrieben Bern" two more lines (main station-Länggasse in 1959 and Friedhof-Brückfeld in 1965) were converted to bus routes. In the mid-seventies public transportation in Berne regained its importance; the suburban railway lines were improved and the Burgernziel-Saali section was extended.


Although Berne is not a metropolis by European standards, the dense timetable of the SVB is remarkable. The traffic demand is met using 8-axle articulated trams built in the '70's and twelve modern low-floor vehicles (type Be 4/8.) All vehicles are designed for unidirectional operation. The most interesting segment is thought to be the line from the main railway station to the "Zytgloggeturm". On this segment, trams and busses travel on extremely short headways against the picturesque background of the arcade buildings.
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Copyright © 1996 Klaus P. Canavan, last change 07-26-98