Last week, Algiers accepted the delivery of the city’s first trams from Alstom, which manufactured the vehicles at its facility in France. The Citadis light rail vehicles are as modern as any currently in operation in Europe, and they will be the first trams in operation in Algeria in fifty years. The system, which will traverse the principal sections of the 4 million-person metropolis, is expected to transport 185,000 riders a day, though the first stage will only be 16 km long and likely not carry as many passengers. If ridership predictions are accurate, the Algiers tramway will be one of the world’s most trafficked tramway lines. It was designed in collaboration with RATP (Paris’ transit operator) and Systra (an affiliate of France’s SNCF railways).
What’s interesting about Algiers’ tram program is that it is being developed simultaneously with the Metro of Algiers (pictured in the map to the right). The first phase of the Metro program will be 9 km underground and open this summer, though the project will eventually spread out over an area of several dozen km, opening consecutively over the next several years. The system, using Siemens technology, will incorporate automatic train control, minimizing gaps between trainsets and therefore expanding the potential number of voyagers.
The Metro’s decade-long development process, which has repeatedly been stalled (part of the line was completed in 1994, but the project was abandoned soon after) encouraged the city to develop the tramway line, which could be executed more rapidly. But the projects don’t overlap: the tram also serves a different area than that foreseen by the Metro, reaching far to the east along the Bay of Algiers, while the Metro’s three proposed lines will remain in the city’s downtown core.
Algiers’ experience, along with that of a variety of Indian cities, shows that large transit expansions are not only needed but also feasible to construct in third world nations. It could be argued, in fact, that the transportation needs of Algiers’ relatively poor inhabitants, who have little access to alternative modes of travel, outweigh those in any wealthy Western city. It’s good, then, to see both of these rail projects coming to fruition this year.
Image above: Algiers Metro Plan, from Métro d’Alger