Can you go topless in Ludwigsburg?

Ludwigsburg. For years we have been looking to France, where the most modern trams and light rail vehicles are used in large cities. Whether they are Lyon, Strasbourg or Bordeaux, they shape the urban landscape and have reconquered entire streets. Three lines were built in Bordeaux at the same time, trains run on one seventh of the route without overhead lines. In studies, although more than 50 cities operate trams in Germany, reference is made several times to the role model function of this technology.

But simply doing without airlines is not possible, as CDU and Free Voters in Ludwigsburg would like for example. Not even in Bordeaux. The tram needs to underline at the points mentioned, through which the vehicles can be powered with electricity. The system took three years to function properly. There are still accidents. Conductor rails are also three times more expensive than overhead lines.

Can’t you just adopt the technology?

These technical developments are nothing new for the Stadtbahn Special Purpose Association. Railways without overhead lines and the necessary technology also have disadvantages, apart from the fact that they would pose entirely different problems in Ludwigsburg. There are no railways in Germany without an airline, which has cost and approval reasons, says Frank von Meißner, managing director of the special association and a staunch railway worker. Special vehicles with inductive charging or batteries are not allowed in Germany, so Ludwigsburg would have to start complex approval procedures. “These are time and cost risks,” says von Meißner, which would also be unacceptable given the relatively small fleet of vehicles for the light rail system. Only 13 to 14 vehicles should be required for the Ludwigsburg Stadtbahn. In Bordeaux, 130 cover a distance of 77 kilometers. He warns that special vehicles and technical innovations should not jeopardize the profitability of the Stadtbahn in Ludwigsburg. In this context, Meißner refers to the Schönbuchbahn, whose railcars have currently been unused for a year due to approval problems. This should be avoided if possible.

So what kind of vehicles should they drive on the tracks?

You also need to take a closer look at the vehicles. Ludwigsburg will likely need Stadtbahn trains which can run on two systems: on tracks under railway law (Markgröningen-Ludwigsburg line) and as a tram. Other cities are also facing this challenge. Only recently several transport companies have joined forces to order such vehicles in bulk, which is cheaper. 246 so-called “tram trains”, which could be translated as tram trains, have currently ordered them, including for the Saarbahn, for Karlsruhe, for the Neckar-Alb region, for Salzburg or for the Upper Austrian railways. This would also be an option for Ludwigsburg. These tram trains travel on overhead lines.

If you wanted to cover short distances without them, vehicles would need a third technology, such as batteries. According to von Meißner, this contradicts an environmentally friendly, light and maneuverable light rail vehicle. “Batteries lead to a high build load, which we have to accelerate and decelerate again and again in stop-and-go urban traffic.” The vehicles would be comparable to an armored Rolls-Royce. “It’s all possible, but it takes a lot of energy,” he says.

So why does France rely on other systems?

Von Meißner sees the Bordeaux and Strasbourg railways as prestige projects that France has offered. Vehicles are expensive to purchase and operate, and the state funds such trains, especially in urban areas. Economically strong regions would be pushed here, weak regions would fall through the cracks. What few people know, says von Meißner, is that citizens are involved in financing local transport. There is a traffic tax that employers and local dealers have to pay, up to 1% of wage costs. This would help finance the city’s railways.

Are airlines disturbing Ludwigsburg’s Baroque cityscape?

Trams with overhead lines are in use in many cities with beautiful historic architecture, notes the expert in the association. It refers to cities such as Freiburg, Augsburg or Winterthur. “It’s going well,” says von Meißner, who tries to take a completely different look at the streets of Ludwigsburg, where traffic roars like on a motorway. He tends to discover large street signs that obstruct the view of the building or unsightly traffic lights in front of the baroque background of the city. Furthermore, he does not find the ugly filter columns along the Schlossstraße, directly in sight of the Residenzschloss, particularly attractive.

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