ⓘ Silesian Interurbans

                                     

ⓘ Silesian Interurbans

Silesian Interurbans, one of the largest tram systems in the world, has been in existence since 1894. The system is spread over more than 50 kilometres and covers thirteen towns in the Upper Silesia metropolitan area and their suburbs, which is densely industrialised and inhabited by more than 2 million people.

                                     

1. Basic information

  • Shortest route length: 1.34 km Route 38
  • Number of routes: 35
  • Longest route length: 22.45 km Route 21
  • Number of revenue vehicles: 336
  • Number of depots: 5
  • Total track length: 299.7 km lines 340.3 km of single track
  • Number of vehicles on-duty daily Mon-Fri: ca. 200
                                     

2. History

The system was established by German Empire in 1894 as a unique 785 mm 2 ft 6 29 ⁄ 32 in narrow gauge steam interurban railway. The first line was 36.5 km long and connected Gliwice with Piekary Slaskie through Zabrze, Chebzie, Chorzow and Bytom, another connected Katowice and Siemianowice. After four years in 1898 electrification started. In 1912 the first short 4 ft 8 1 ⁄ 2 in 1.435 mm standard gauge line was built in Katowice. In 1913 a separate standard gauge system connecting Bytom with suburbs and villages west of the town was opened. After World War I and the Silesian Uprisings the region and the tram network was divided between newly independent Poland and Germany, and international services appeared the last one ran until 1937. In 1928 another standard gauge system was established in Sosnowiec, Bedzin and Dabrowa Gornicza the so-called Dabrowa Coal Basin - a region adjoining the Upper Silesian Coal Basin. Between 1928 and 1936 most of the original narrow gauge network was converted to standard, which allowed a connection with the new system in Sosnowiec a service between Chorzow and Sosnowiec through Katowice was established in 1931.

During World War II the German authorities decided to merge all the systems and administrations, and they have remained as one united network to the present day though the old boundaries are still easily traceable. The new route numbering system introduced in 1940 to integrate the systems is still used. In 1951 the system was taken over by a state-owned company WPK Katowice and until the 1970s it was widely extended and partly modernised, reaching its maximum length at the end of the 1970s ca. 235 km. Since the late 1960s, the classic rolling stock has been replaced by modern cars based on PCC streetcar technology. In the 1980s some of the non-modernised, rural lines were abandoned the longest one from Bytom to Wieszowa with a branch to Stolarzowice.

The end of the 1980s brought changes in Poland the Round Table talks and the fall of communism, but unfortunately that did not improve the tramway service in the region - on the contrary, the condition of the tram company Tramwaje Slaskie S.A. has been steadily deteriorating since the middle of the 1990s. The last new line was built in 1980–1982 between Sosnowiec and Zagorze. At the end of the 1990s the Bytom - Chorzow - Katowice line was to be upgraded to light-rail LRT standards. Due to a lack of funds, the investment was carried out only partially including the purchase of 17 Citadis Type new low-floor cars produced by Alstom and the journey time on a highly overcrowded line did not change.

                                     

3. Present day

Today, Tramwaje Slaskie S.A. and KZK GOP are slowly repairing effects of long-period lack of funds. There are much renovations, and new rolling stocks are bought. In 2012 network operator bought 30 low-floor Pesa 2012N "Twist-Step", and 12 partially low-floor Moderus Beta trams from Modertrans Poznan. They are parts of European Union project, and were partially refunded from EU.

                                     

4. Rolling stock

Revenue cars brackets: number of units in working order April 2008 / dates of production):

  • 111N Type - bi-directional version of 105Na Type 6 / 1993
  • 116Nd Type - low-floor articulated Citadis LRT car 17 / 2000–2001
  • N Type - classic four-wheel car 2 / 1949, 1951
  • 105N/Na Type - short car, with electrical system based on PCC technology 314 / 1973–1992
  • 102Na Type - articulated car, body based on Polish PCC - 13N Type 3 / 1970–1973

Non-revenue cars: ca. 50 cars, mostly of N and 4N Types, though many other interesting units are in the working order.

Museum cars: a set of classic N type motor car with a 4ND Type passive trailer produced in the 1950s, renovated in 2000–2001. One 13N.