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Six of the best tram systems around the world

A study conducted by Eurogroup Consulting evaluated 32 tram networks around the world comparing them by multimodal integration, speed, pricing, reliability and ridership. Varsha Saraogi looks at the tram systems which won the gold and silver in the three categories – namely best-performing trams in large cities, mid-sized cities and historic tram systems.

All images courtesy of Caledonian Sleeper


hey might not boast the latest cutting-edge technology, nor run along miles and miles of track, but throughout centuries, funicular railways have become a fascinating vintage mode of transport, as well as a popular tourist attraction in many locations around the world.

Usually running on very small portions of tracks, many of them are still operational in several European hubs, their construction dating as far back as the 19th century.

The very first, the Lyon Funicular, was introduced in the French city in 1862, while the UK’s oldest funicular, which can be found in Scarborough, was inaugurated in 1875.

Yet while many of them have managed to survive until this day – some even earning the title of National Monuments in their country – others were not as lucky.

The most notable case is Mount Vesuvius, whose funicular was repeatedly damaged by volcanic eruptions and then closed in the 1940s, having been opened in 1880. However, its memory still survives through the lyrics of Peppino Turco’s famous Funiculì, Funiculà song.

Here’s a look at some of the most spectacular and panoramic funiculars you can find around the world.

Lyon, France

Lyon won the gold for being home to the best performing tram system in large cities across the world. With a slew of public transport options available which includes bus routes, metro, and soft transport modes as well as the tram corridor, Lyon has a systematic mode of transport connecting the entire city.

The original tramway network - developed in 1879, was built and operated by the Compagnie des Omnibus et tramways de Lyon (OTL) and consisted of ten 1,435mm horse-drawn lines with a total length of 44km serving Lyon, Villeurbanne, La Mulatière et Oullins. The first steam-driven tram line, linking Lyon and Vénissieux started running in 1888 and the network was electrified between 1893 and 1899.

The modern tram network was built in 2001 and three lines out of five currently carries more than 100,000 passengers every day with an annual ridership of 93 million. During rush hour, extra services for universities are available. Since 2017, the platforms of tram stops in Lyon have been extended to increase the capacity of some lines by 30%. With a network length running across 61km, the tram will soon grow to six lines to meet high demands.

Image: karnizz |

Paris, France

The runner up for the best performing trams systems in large cities, the Paris tram network covers a network length of 22km and carries 83 million passengers every year.

Up until the twentieth century, Paris had a large network of tram lines. During the 1950s, these were slowly replaced by the metro lines and the tramways disappeared. It wasn’t until the end of the twentieth century when the company RATP decided to bring the tramway back to Paris.

While Région Parisienne or Île-de-France region of France – the most populous region in the north-central part of the country which contains Paris - consists of ten operational tram lines, the T3 line was the first modern tram system to enter Paris. It operates in the main city through two sections, the T3a and T3b.

Having begun in 2006, the T3a connects Boulevard Victor – Pont du Garigliano with Porte de Vincennes metro station while T3b – which started operation in 2012 - connects Porte de Vincennes with Porte de la Chapelle.

T3 runs parallel to the Périphérique ring road, and witnesses a daily ridership of over 280,000 passengers.

Image: JeanLucIchard |

Dijon, France 

The Dijon tram network which is ranked as the top-performing tram system in mid-sized cities according to the report, began its operation in September 2012 and was completed with an investment of approximately $550m. The tramway consists of two lines totalling 19km in length and serves 37 stations.

The tram route runs through the city centre and in the vicinity of the main hospital, University of Dijon and football stadium. The trams also cover the residential and commercial zones of Chenove, Quetigny, Toison and Grésilles, and the new Valmy Commercial Centre, due to which commercial activity in these areas has increased over time. The tram network has proved to be a major boost to public transport usage with a 40% increase in the number of commuters using it in just three years with circa 24 million passengers using it annually.

One of the key factors which sets the network apart is its open payment ticketing system which was introduced in March 2018. Passengers are able to use their contactless bank cards for ticket payment and validation making Dijon the first in the country to do so.

Image: Da_Ja_25 |

Tours, France

Having won the second spot in the ranking for the mid-sized category after Dijon, the Tours tramway consists of a 15km, 29-station, north-south cross-city tram network.

The Tours tramway dates back to 1877 when the first horse-drawn public transport system was launched in the city. Following that, trams pulled by steam locomotives were opened in 1889. Plans were drawn to electrify the network in 1900. However, in the wake of the First World War some parts of the tramway were abandoned. The Second World War caused huge damage to the tramway facilities and in 1949 the trams were completely replaced by buses.

The new tram network operated by Fil Bleu started operation in August 2013 and is part of the transit network of the Touraine province.

With a ridership of 17 million per year, the tramway operates through a fleet of 21 Alstom Citadis light rail vehicles, custom-designed by French design house RCP Design Global.

Image: evoPix.evolo |

Zürich, Switzerland

In the category for best-performing historic tram systems, Zürich won the top spot in the report, thanks to its increasing ridership as well as its ability to utilise its resources by integrating a high level of multimodal transport.

The initial horse-drawn trams which started operation in 1882 were operated by a private company, Zürcher Strassenbahn Gesellschaft. It was in 1888 that the city opened its first electric tramway. Today the tram network is operated by a publicly-owned transport operator Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ) – formally known as Städtische Strassenbahn Zürich.

With regular investment designed to modernise the network and enhance its longevity, the Zürich tram aims to deliver a performance comparable to those of younger systems, according to the report. Its 16 lines use numerous shared tracks with a high frequency all day especially in the city centre.

Boasting a network length covering 73 kilometres, the tram system caters to 205 million passengers on a yearly basis adding up to 368 million passenger-kilometres.

Image: berm_teerawat |

Vienna, Austria

Second to Zurich as the most efficient historical tram system, Vienna’s tram system dates back to 1865. Other accolades include Vienna being a part of the top ten largest tram networks in the world covering about 178km in total across more than 1,000 stations.

The electric trams only began in 1897 but after the First World War, operations became difficult and after the Second World War, in which Vienna was heavily bombed many stations closed down completely. Trams did however continue to work despite the damage.

The current operator of the network is Wiener Linien and the network boasts of 363 million users per annum.