The countries | cities with the best tram systems in the world

31 July 2020 5 min. read

Having assessed more than 30 tram systems across the globe, consulting firm Eurogroup Consulting has identified the best systems across large and mid-sized cities, while also highlighting the best historic tram systems across the world. Lyon, Dijon and Zurich emerge as leaders in each category respectively.

The 32 tram systems under the microscope were those for which information is the most accessible and reliable, with data drawn from the World Bank, baseline studies, field observations, and a number of interviews with tram industry leaders and urban transportation experts.

The authors – Eurogroup Consulting is a French consultancy – report that the use of trams as a means of public transport has undergone a revival of sorts since 2000, with nearly 200 cities developing new tram networks in the time. This includes redevelopment of historical lines, the revival of old and now unused tram channels, the strategic conversion of old railway lines into tram systems and the development of new tram systems altogether.

As a result, trams have become the efficient and sustainable solution to new age urban mobility. Eurogroup Consulting sought to understand how well some of these systems are serving their purpose, and used a combination of ten performance criteria for its evaluation.

Metrics include the potential of a tram corridor, which considers the service to urban centres and density of population along tram routes. Other criteria include the speed of the tram, timings, pricing, integration with other modes of transport, reliability & security, as well as the use of resources in deploying the tram network. The researchers also considered three factors that it labels ‘performance results’, which speak to the system’s economic viability, ridership numbers and dynamics against the broader transportation system.

At the same time, the performance across these key metrics depends on the context in which the tram system operates. To account for these variations, the firm divided tram systems up into three categories.

Large city tram systems

In large cities, for instance, tram systems are large and complex bodies of intervweaving routes, integrating with other modes of transport, connecting with the suburbs and often constituting the backbone of public transportation. According to the report, ridership in these systems can exceed 100,000 passengers each day.

Large city tram system rankings

Twelve of the tram systems studied fall under this category, with Lyon emerging as the leader. The tram system in Lyon, which was set up in 2001 and stretches across more than 60 kms in the city, received a score of 71 out of 100 averaged across all performance indicators.

According to Eurogroup Consulting, tram costs in Lyon are covered up to 60% by passenger revenues. In addition, tram services are reinforced during rush hour, which is a necessity given that three out of five tram lines in the city draw more than 100,000 passengers each day. Following Lyon closely are the tram systems in Paris with a score of 69 and Bordeaux with a score of 68, rounding up an all-French top three.

Other cities studied under this category include Strasbourg, Manchester, Grenoble, Nantes, Barcelona and Dublin.

Mid-sized city tram systems

Mid-sized cities – classified as cities with 250,000 to 500,000 residents – are often home to a couple of tram lines at most, which act as connectors to a larger bus or train network. In some mid-sized cities, the tram network is simply a feeder system to larger nearby urban centres.

Mid-sized city tram system rankings

Once again, twelve mid-sized city tram networks were surveyed by Eurogroup Consulting, and Dijon in France emerged as the leader with a score of 66. The network was opened relatively recently in 2012, which is reflected in its merits. Dijon’s tram system is disabled friendly and accepts contactless payments.

Following closely are Tours in France and Bergen in Norway, with scores of 61 and 58 respectively. Other cities in the category include Stockholm, Gold Coast, Nottingham, Croydon, Sheffield, Sydney and Dubai.

Historic tram systems

The last category is historic tram systems – networks which have been operating and reinventing themselves for well over a century now. “These networks face more challenges in maintaining and modernising their rolling stock (often made up of several generations of vehicles) and their infrastructure,” explained the report.

Historic tram systems rankings

Eight tram systems fall under this category, namely Berlin, Brussels, Helsinki, Melbourne, Oslo, Toronto, Vienna and Zürich. Leading the way and still going strong is Zurich’s tram system, established in 1894, with a score of 66. The city’s tram system is the epicenter of its public transportation network, while frequent services make it a reliable option for the city centre. Following closely are Vienna (established in 1897) with a score of 60, and Brussels (established in 1894) with a score of 56.

These historical tram systems are distinct parts of the urban landscape, and often add to the character of a city, according to the experts. Meanwhile, new tram systems have a range of advantages. “Trams enhance the urban landscape and modernise neighbourhoods by transforming public space. Trams contribute to neighbourhood cohesion and reassure investors by illustrating an area's investment appeal. Trams can also reflect the image and identity of the city,” explained the firm.