Frequent travellers to Europe will be familiar with the traditional trams that provide transport for commuters and tourists alike in many cities.
Some can be a bit basic and give a bumpy ride, but I’ve always found them extremely efficient, punctual and inexpensive. Here in London, trams in the centre of the city were seen to be too old-fashioned, noisy and dangerous and were withdrawn in 1952 to be replaced by buses.
However, transport planners in London have been having a re-think and the idea of a new generation of trams - quieter and more comfortable than their predecessors – seems to have found favour. There’s already a very successful tram system in Croydon, south of London, and other schemes are being looked at, including a north-south cross-river service to provide an alternative to crowded underground journeys. It would run on electricity and produce no Co2 emissions. Other British cities such as Manchester and Nottingham have had tram systems for some time.
Just over a year ago, the Mayor of Paris introduced a sleek, high-tech five-mile tramline through the city centre – the first since 1937 - and there are plans to extend it.
Planners always have to tread carefully, though, as they’re finding out in Florence. Designs for a new tram service in that most beautiful and historic of Italian cities were laid last October, but the idea has caused uproar and outrage with 13,000 residents signing a petition and taking to the streets to protest.
Everyone agrees that the congestion and pollution in Florence need to be drastically reduced, but the protesters fear that the tram’s vibrations will damage historic buildings and squares. Florence city council says state-of-the-art technology will keep those vibrations to a minimum and actually save monuments rather than damage them.
One of the problems is the sheer number of tourists – officials say the annual influx is becoming increasingly unsustainable, with the statue of David being admired by 1.3 million people a year. For more information visit the Florence Luxury Hotel and City Guide from Luxique.
By the way, if you’re a ‘tram fan’ and happen to be in New York, try the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which offers a 4-minute aerial ride from mid-town Manhattan to the island. At its peak, it climbs 250 feet above the East River. You might have seen it in Billy Crystal’s City Slickers or Sylvester Stallone’s Nighthawks.
by Andy Moreton