Public transport

Stadtwerke fear further failures

Bahn der Linie 61.

A tram of line 61. Photo: Benjamin Westhoff.

Bonn. The Stadtwerke (SWB) for bus and tram services want to extend their emergency plans for line 61 between Dottendorf and Auerberg after several failures, and will scrutinise their existing inspection schedules.

The Stadtwerke (SWB) for bus and tram services want to extend their emergency plans for line 61 between Dottendorf and Auerberg after several failures, and will scrutinise their existing inspection schedules. 

The plans are supposed to contain scenarios which ensure the continuous service despite the possibility of several broken-down trams. One aspect will be the input of data at the information screens at the stops. Some screens were incorrectly showing the false information to contact the taxi headquarters. With this the company is conforming to the demands by the Social Liberals and the SPD. 

Last week, eight of 24 trams in total broke down. The route between main station and Dottendorf could only be served by line 62 and the remaining route until Auerberg was serviced by replacement buses. „This is indeed extremely annoying“, said the managing director of the SWB subsidiary, Anja Wenmakers, in the committee meeting.

Four of the broken trams were indeed in need of repair for some time. During the night to Wednesday, it was noticed in the workshop that another four wagons had to be taken out of the traffic. The wheels were showing an - what Wenmakers called - „interesting phenomenon“. The steel noses, which protrude into the tracks, normally get longer after a period of service due to the weight of the tram. Now, the trams weren’t allowed out on the tracks because those noses were too short. The reason for this might be the heavy construction vehicles which are in use at the large building sites at the main station. „Safety comes first“, insisted Wenmakers. At the same time, she did not eliminate the possibility of similar situations arising again. As reported, the low-flora wagons of the lines 61, 62 and 65 are from 1994 and demand a high maintenance schedule. They are facing replacement though. But the new trams will only come into service in 2020.

Council coalition and Stadtwerke management criticised

From the SPD’s and the Bürger Bund Bonn’s point of view, the council coalition has delayed the decision to buy 26 new trams with the option to purchase a further nine unnecessarily. The former chairman of the SWB traffic department, Hein Jürgen Reining, had already pointed out the urgent and necessary purchase in the planning committee meeting in 2014, according to the BBB.

„In the end, it needed the use of a trick by Mister Reining, to produce a TÜV report to prove the bad condition of the trams“, said Marcel Schmitt of the BBB. From his point of view, the supervisory board and the management are responsible for the delay. Finally in 2017, the council decided on the purchase. Bert Moll (CDU) defended the lengthy decision. „A million-investment like this demands extensive consultation.“

The purchase is evaluated at 80 million Euro. According to the SWB, experts estimate that on today’s market the 26 new trams are available for 65 million. Hansjörg Spielhoff, also chairman at the SWB bus and tram services, said that the new purchase from 2020 has always been the targeted date for the company. The background: A leasing contract for the purchase of used trams with the bank of New York with a running time of 27 years, which could only be cancelled last year without losses.

 Klaus-Peter Gilles (CDU), chairman of the SWB overall group, argument similarly. He does not see any obstruction: „Quite the opposite is the case: The supervisory board had made the new purchase only possible by deciding on cancelling the US lease in 2016.“  

ORIGINAL VERSION: Philipp Königs  TRANSLATION: Mareike Graepel