January 1, 2018 at 23:40  •  Posted in Infrastructure by  •  2 Comments

Luxembourg’s First Family putting the ‘fun’ in to ‘funicular’

 2017 has seen much new infrastructure unveiled across Luxembourg, and here are some thoughts on the latest.

Liveable Cities: Liveable Luxembourg

There’s a new buzz in Kirchberg – literally. The gentle hum heralds the return of trams to Luxembourg. This super-modern version promises to revolutionise transit in the city, and certainly will up on the plateau for now. It’s smooth, efficient and, crucially, has a regular and plentiful service; a train every six minutes. In addition it’s free to use now and during January.

The resident and working population of Luxembourg is expanding at a rate greater than the boundaries of the city; of course the centre cannot grow. It has been stated, correctly, that “no city in the world has solved its transit problems through the private car” and anyone who has been in a motor vehicle here can see that capacity is at breaking point. Add dwindling resources, pollution and the public health problems associated with inactive lifestyles it is clear that alternatives need to be explored.

The second Sunday in December saw the unveiling of the physical manifestation of the  concept of “mobility chains” on a wonderful snowy and sunny winter’s day. This vision, of the Minister for Transport is that fully linked transport modes will enable overall decreases in journey times, even when changing modes. In practice, for example, the train to Pfaffenthal, followed by the funicular and then the tram will see you at the office quicker than driving.

Space for Cars – Why the Tram and Cycle-Path are Good for Motorists.

In addition we finally have a properly segregated cycle path here! It’s a beautifully simple and powerful idea; keep those on foot, those on bikes and those in cars fully separated and fully safe. It is impossible to underestimate the importance of this. Pedestrians will be encouraged as not only are they no longer forced to share space with cyclists, the cycle path also acts as a ‘barrier’ keeping motorised transport off the sidewalks. (This is a problem here which is rising to epidemic proportions; and is proven to endanger lives, especially those of children. I beg anyone reading; just never do it, it’s illegal, anti-social and dangerous). Secondly, cyclists will of course be delighted but more importantly will multiply. Good, safe, infrastructure always encourages this quick, easy and healthy method of urban transport. Finally by clearing the two carriageways (along JFK) of bikes and busses, it will actually be better for those in cars too, especially as many car drivers will hopefully switch mode, leaving fewer cars on the urban roads.

There is also a revolution on the rails as well. We have two new stations, at Pfaffenthal and Howald. The funky new funicular railway moves people swiftly up or down between Kirchberg and the new Pfaffenthal station. Then move by foot, by (velo’h) bike, by tram or by bus swiftly to your destination. This is the ‘mobility chain’.

A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport Enrique Peñalosa

Now allow me to confront the elephant in the room or, in our case, the rhinoceroses charging around our beautiful little city.

Who is this infrastructure for? I’ve seen it said that ‘cyclists’ will be happy, and that it will cut travel time for those already coming by train from the north to Kirchberg (it will; maybe by as much as half).

But this isn’t the real point of it. Some may appear to be reluctant to say it but is it is all about getting people out of their cars. We need to take a step back and understand that transport policy must be about moving people (and goods) around an urban space; its primary function is not to move and store large steel boxes with wheels. With this in mind we can see that by providing more efficient transit solutions then we can deliver more people into and around the city. This can free up space as well as make the city healthier and friendlier.

The train lines from the north and the south (from Esch) and east will now be continuous lines. They will still stop at Gare Central, of course, but there will be no need to change trains to continue your journey. So now leaving the car outside of the congested city becomes much easier all round. Train travel is relatively inexpensive here; you can park at the rural stations for free; you can take your bike on the trains for free, or park them safely at the increasing number of “M-Boxes”.

Unfortunately there is a sad truth that politicians are facing today, and it is that cars pollute, they endanger and they hurt business by having too many people sat in jams instead of working or buying. Who wouldn’t want quieter, calmer, child and business friendly streets? Well it sometimes appears that many do not; every attempt at segregated cycle lanes is met with a lot of resistance. Every attempt to calm or remove traffic also.

Yet everywhere in the world local businesses have benefited from more people-orientated streets, mostly in an integrated system. Kids can play out. A community, sliced in half by this ugly, smelly, dangerous menace, soon re-forms and benefits all.

If this sounds like idealistic twaddle, look at the old town centre. How many business, locals or visitors are crying out to allow cars back in?

Thank you Mr. Bausch, and thank you Ms Tanson; your vision and your fight are appreciated by those who seek a Liveable Luxembourg.

Why not leave the car at home tomorrow. Jump on a train, a bus, a tram, a funicular, a bike, your feet. A better future awaits.

The “Good” Old Days

picture credit Eng Postkaart den Dag

with grateful acknowledgement to @grischard and @Luxembourgize

2 Comments

  1. Michael Tomaszewski / January 2, 2018 at 16:35 / Reply

    I salute you for writing an astute, complete and – on the whole – positive overview of the infrastructural changes in Luxembourg City.

    Besides the massive efforts still required to change motorist-centric attitudes, there is still a need to fine-tune train frequency (and reliability), as currently there is but one train per hour coming in from Esch to Pfaffenthal station, which hinders the usability of the direct trains – at least for those of us commuting in from the South.
    My hope that frequencies will exponentially increase, once the tram line has been extended to Place d’Etoile and the timetabling is brought in line with a real-life usage needs (at least in the morning and evening rush hours).

    On in all, I agree, a giant leap for Luxembourg.

    • David Thomas / January 3, 2018 at 00:03 / Reply

      Thanks, and I couldn’t agree more. We have a train station in the west of the city which serves two schools (it’s actually named “Lycee”). The schools finish at different times, yet the half-hourly city-bound trains manage to stop exactly 2 mins before the end of each school day – leaving the students with around a 25 minute wait. (the westbound trains stop 2mins after the school day – an impossible dash). That doesn’t seem very thought-out to me. And sadly indicative of a wider integration problem that MUST be corrected to make mobility chains work.

      I am absolutely completely delighted by the through-trains. It seems both a symbolic and practical step towards recognising that the urban area of the capital has spread (and will continue to do so), and of a desire for integrated transport. BUT – as you say, why so few trains? I’m sure logistics must be tricky, but equally why should they be? Much bigger and more complex systems operate all over the world all day everyday.

      Like you, I really hope this is just an initial step, and it will be rolled out further, and soon.

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