The first tramways made their appearance at the streets of Athens in 1882. They were lightweight vehicles, closed for the winter with 16 seats and open for the summer with 20 seats. They were pulled by three horses. The 800 horses that were used in total were from Asia Minor ("Mikra Asia"), they were little and sinewiness, but appropriate for the sloping streets of Athens and for the continuous stops. These first lines connected the center of Athens with the suburbs (as they were at that time) that is Patissia, Ampelokipi and Kolokinthou as well as Omonia square with Syntagma, Gkazi, Keramiko Dipilo while later in 1902 have served the Ippokratous, Mitropoleos and Acharnon streets.
The steam-powered tram of Faliro started its operation in 1887. Having its starting point in front of the Academy of Athens it traversed the Panepistimiou, Amalias and Thisseos, went up to Tzitzifies and from there, through the coastal avenue ended up at Faliro, where at that time existed seaside resorts and sea baths.
On October, 30, 1908 we had the operation of the first electric tramways which would gradually replace the horse-drawn vehicles. In the two years that followed the tram network acquired 257 vehicles – 150 of them were motored while the other 107 were trailers – along with the old ones, which were reused as trailers.
The wagons were constructed in Belgium, they were closed, they had electric lighting and innovatively placed comfortable seats with a prediction for 16 seats for seating persons and 14 places for upstanding persons and they had two motors which were ideal for the slopes of the lines of Athens and they had beige colouring. The new tramways caused such an impression to the Athenians that many of them traveled up to the end of the route only in order to enjoy the comfort of the trip and not for any other reason. At that time, the cost of the trip was only one penny.
In 1939 a large number of trailers of Belgian construction were sold up, while all trolley vehicles in use are renovated and their color becomes dark green and for this reason they were also called the "green ones". In the following year we had the receipt of 60 big and modern trolley vehicles which were included in the supplementary contract that was signed by the Greek government in 1937. The new vehicles, known as the “yellow ones”, because of their colour were constructed from the Italian consortium ΟΜ/CGE/Breda of Milan and were distinguished by their aerodynamic design which used as a model the tramways of Milan.
On the 28th of October of 1940, the tramways of Athens participate in the war recruitment. The images of overloaded tramways with enthusiastic recruits that rushed to present themselves and go to the front are now classic. After the Occupation started the descending course of the tramways of Athens, with the abolition of some lines. However, the real abolition took place at the same time with the dramatic dismantling of the tracks at the Haftia node from crews of the Ministry of Public Works during the first morning hours of the 16th of November, 1953 and the resulting decommissioning of the lines "Patisia - Ampelokipi" and "Kipseli – Pagrati".
The last jingle from a bell of a tram of Athens was heard outside of the depot of Aghia Triada Keramikou, on the midnight of the 15th, start of the 16th October of 1960. The tramways, green or yellow, which during their 52 years of operation transported around 3 billion persons, would not travel again at the streets of Athens. However, the tram line of Perama remained. On the 4th of April, 1977, afternoon of Holy Monday the tram of Perama having started its trip at Perama and with a direction to Piraeus, decorated with flowers and banners, implements its final itinerary. It arrives at Loudovikou square at Piraeus, outside of the station of the Electric Railway. The passengers get off. The driver Yannis Kostopoulos rings the bell for the last time and directs the vehicle 77 to the depot of street Kononos. At that moment, the epilogue was written for the first period of the greek tramway. 44 years later, the tram returned to the streets of the capital, modern and technologically advanced. It started its operation on the 19th of July of 2004, almost at the same time with the Olympic Games of Athens.
Network and infrastructures
The tramway’s network has 48 stops in total, three of which (namely "SYNTAGMA", "SEF" and "ASKLIPIIO VOULAS" are terminal stops. At 16 stops the platforms are central, at 30 stops the platforms are lateral, while at the terminal stops "SEF" and "ASKLIPIIO VOULAS" there are two central platforms. Each stop has seats and roofing for the passengers waiting for the tram. They are also equipped with a visual and audio information system, they have ticket issuing and ticket validating machines, housing for electronic equipment, panels for the promotion of informational material (e.g. maps), clock, waste bins and CCTV system. At the stops a system is installed for informing the passengers through sound announcements and by means of signs of changing text (telematics) regarding the arrival times of the tramways, any delays or changes of the itineraries as well as for other additional information. Also, there is an emergency phone, which is used only in cases of emergencies in order to communicate with the Operation Control Center or in cases of technical works at the network. Also, at all stops and at several junctions a CCTV system has been installed for the safety of the passengers and the prevention of malicious actions, the protection of the company’s assets, the monitoring and better adjustment of the tramways’ circulation at points where there is there is involution with the cars circulating on the streets. Most of the administrative and operational services are housed at Helleniko, at the area of the old airport (Depot of Helleniko). These facilities house the premises of the company (offices, electromechanical installations etc.), the Operation Control Center, the workshop for the rolling stock where the vehicles are maintained, repaired and cleaned, as well as the parking area for the tramways. The vehicles of the tramway of Athens were designed by the company Ansaldo Breda, in cooperation with the famous vehicle designer of Ferrari, Sergio Pininfarina, one of the leading designers of luxurious vehicles at the modern history of automation. The type of the vehicles is SIRIO, a design which dates from the end of 1977 and which was the result of the decision of the Italian companies ANSALDO TRASPORTI and BREDA COSTRUZIONI FERROVIARIE to develop a model of a product in order to respond to the demands of a modern, economic tramway vehicle. During the design of the vehicles particular attention was given to: the general aesthetic characteristics, the functionality, the comfort, the quality and the ergonomic design of the interior appearance of the vehicles, the visibility and comfort at the cabin of the driver, the modularity of the design and of the development. The modern tramway of Athens is a modular bi-directional vehicle and has the ability to pull two vehicles of a train in operation. The range of the track 1435 mm (regular), with a power supply voltage of 750Vdc (-33% +20%) and a maximum velocity of 70 km/h with modern electric motors 4 x 106 KW. The length of the vehicle is 31,9 meters, while with the couplers reaches the 32,31 meters and the width is 2,4 meters. The height of the floor at the passenger area is just 350 mm in order to enable the embarkation of passengers without the need for a platform. Its transportation capacity allows for 56 seating passengers, including the specially designed seats for people with disabilities and it can transport more than 200 standing passengers. It provides heating, ventilation, air conditioning, at the passenger area as well as at the drivers’ cabins, which are regulated seasonally. Today, 35 tramways are in circulation. The number of vehicles which serve the various lines (Platon, Aristoteles, Thoukididis) varies depending on the days, the hours and the seasons. The vehicles are equipped with a system of visual and sound announcements for informing the passengers, as well as multimedia monitors used for informational / advertising purposes.
Construction & Operation
The tramway of Athens was constructed according to the most modern international standards and specifications. As a result of this:
- The existence of safe junctions of the tramway with the vehicles, which are all controlled by traffic lights.
- The pedestrian traffic is permitted at clearly delineated pedestrian crossings.
- The safe access of the passengers to the stops (using special ramps) and to the vehicle (without stairs) is ensured.
- There is an important amount of facilities (like grids and delineation waysides), which deter from possible actions of passengers which could cause accidents.
During the tramway’s operation the most modern technical means have been utilized, such as a CCTV system as well as special systems of surveillance and alarm.
The tramway as a means of public transportation is constructed to enter the urban web and to connect municipalities and neighborhoods, offering reliable, quick, comfortable and safe transportation on a daily basis. For the tram to be able to cope consistently with this role, it has to be supported also by the necessary infrastructures. The lack of priority at crowded junctions and the existence of traffic lights at unnecessary locations were causing significant delays at the operation of the network.
For this reason, Urban Rail Transport S.A. proceeded with the upgrading of the "Green Wave", which is a system that automatically grants priority to the tram vehicles at central nodes and junctions.
Urban Rail Transport S.A. has performed detailed measurements of speed and waiting time at central junctions where the tramway passes through, while at the same time there has been a retesting and rescheduling of the installed system of automatic priority at traffic lights. The results from all these ameliorative interventions are directly visible, causing significant reduction at the travel times of the tram.
The tramways’ travel times reduction have direct impact to the degree of passengers' satisfaction and allow the tramway to add the factor of speed to the comparative advantages which already features, such as the reliability (99,6% reliability of itineraries), the extended operation hours and the ability for bike transportation, without day/hour limitation. Furthermore, the above interventions contribute to the more exact designation of the tram’s seats on the existing itineraries and to the creation of new ones with a greater frequency at the regions with the highest passenger traffic also for the peak hours, while at the same time the reliability is increased.
Priority of Urban Rail Transport S.A. is the complete safety of all persons circulating on and near the tram network (motorists, bikers, pedestrians) and the "Green Wave" will contribute to the securing of safe traveling conditions. The familiarization of all of us with the absolute priority of the tramway at all circulatory nodes will make safer the transportations in our city.