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LRT in Basque Country, Spain: Current operations and future expansion plans [free access]

August 1, 2020

The light rail system (LRT) in Basque Country is an extensive network that comprises two lines, which span 14 km (combined length) and cover a total of 34 stations. The Bilbao tram line began operations in 2002, and the Vitoría–Gasteiz tram line began operations in 2008. The tram network is owned by Euskal Trenbide Sarea and operated by Euskotren Tranbia (formerly known as Euskotran). Table 1 presents the key figures of the tram network.

 

Table 1: Key figures of Basque Country LRT

 

System length

14 km

No. of stations

34

No. of drivers

91

No. of trains

19

Ridership

11.7 million (2019)

Distance travelled

824,870 km/year

No. of services

158,582 per year

Fare system

Regular paper tickets and electronic cards (Bat, Barik, and Mugi cards)

Track

1,000 mm narrow gauge rail tracks

Rolling stock

Urbos 1 and Urbos 2 trams, supplied by CAF

Capacity (per tram)

192 passengers (including 50 seated)

Source: Euskotren Tranbia

 

Image 1, shows the routes of the Bilbao and Vitoría–Gasteiz tram lines.

 

Image 1: Bilbao line and Vitoría–Gasteiz line routes 

Source: Euskotren Tranbia 

Bilbao line

 

The Bilbao tram service was designed as complementary to the Bilbao Metro and as a commitment to sustainable urban public transport. Initially, the line connected the Bilbao–Atxuri station with Uribitarte. It was later expanded to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the hospital of Basurto, and finally La Casilla. The line spans 5.5 km and serves 14 stations. Table 2 presents the key details of the line.

 

Table 2: Key figures of the Bilbao line

 

Year of commencement of operations

2002

Length

5.5 km

No. of stations

14

Frequency

10 minutes

Trips per year

62,207

Rolling stock (no. of trams)

8

Annual distance covered

41,880,767 km

Annual ridership

3.1 million

Source: Euskotren Tranbia

 

Future plans

 

The Bilbao line will be further extended by more than 6 km, at a combined investment of over EUR94.5 million. Table 3 gives the details of the extension plans for the Bilbao line.

 

 

Table 3: Bilbao line extension projects

 

Network extensions

Civil work

investment (EUR)

Length (km)

Stations

Projected ridership

Fleet

(trams)

Funding

BILBAO

Tramway Atxuri– Bolueta

8.5 million

2.3

2

330,000 annually

5

65% Basque Government, 35% Bilbao City Council

Tramway Circular line closing

37.5 million

2.2

3

2.23 million annually

4

65% Basque Government, 35% Bilbao City Council

Tramway Zorrozaurre

48.5 million

2.3

5

1 million annually

4

65% Basque Government, 35% Bilbao City Council

Source: Euskotren Tranbia

 

Tramway extension Atxuri Bolueta

 

The Atxuri Bolueta extension of the Bilbao line will span 2.3 km in length, serve three stations, and have an estimated annual ridership of 356,000 passengers. The extension will be developed at an estimated investment of EUR8 million. It is expected to start commercial operations by 2021.

 

Circular line closing  (La Casilla to Abando extension)

 

The extension will span 2.2 km, serve three stations, and connect La Casilla to Abando. The expected annual ridership on the line is 2.23 million passengers. The year of commencement of operations has not yet been announced.

 

Zorrozaurre extension

 

Studies on the alternatives to the extension of the tramway to Zorrozaurre are currently underway. The alternatives will depend on the connection of the tram line A at its closest point to the Zorrozaurre peninsula, in the vicinity of the Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. 

 

Vitoría–Gasteiz line

 

The Vitoría–Gasteiz tram line commenced operations in 2008. It meets the Basque Country’s need for a high-capacity and high-frequency transportation system at a lower cost as compared to an underground system.

 

The line spans 8.5 km and serves 20 stations. It is Y-shaped, with two different lines that cross the city from south to north. The first line links Angulema, close to the medieval centre of the town, and Lakua, in the north-western suburbs. The second line links Angulema with Abetxuko. Table 4 outlines the details of the Vitoría–Gasteiz line. Table 4 provides the key figures of the Vitoría–Gasteiz line.

 

Table 4: Key figures of the Vitoría–Gasteiz line

 

Year of commencement of operations

2008

Length

8.5 km

No. of stations

20

Rolling stock (no. of trams)

11

Trips per year

96,375

Annual distance covered

74,453,200 km

Annual ridership

7.2 million

Source: Euskotren Tranbia

 

Vitoría–Gasteiz tram line expansion

 

The Vitoría–Gasteiz tram line will be expanded by over 8.5 km (excluding the 1.4-km South University extension which has been completed) at a total estimated cost of over EUR144 million. Table 5 provides the details of the Vitoría–Gasteiz line extension projects.

 

Table 5: Vitoría–Gasteiz line extension projects

 

Network extensions

Civil work

investment (EUR)

Length (km)

Stations

Projected ridership

Fleet

(trams)

Funding

VITORÍA–GASTEIZ

Tramway South University (completed) 

8.5 million

1.4

3

12,150 (daily)

4

65% Basque Government, 17.5% Council of Araba, 17.5% Vitoría–Gasteiz City Council

Tramway Salburua 

24 million

2.5

5

13,700 (daily)

7

65% Basque Government, 17.5% Council of Araba, 17.5% Vitoría–Gasteiz City Council

Tramway Zabalgana 

120 million

6

11

25,000 (daily)

14

65% Basque Government, 17.5% Council of Araba, 17.5% Vitoría–Gasteiz City Council

Source: Euskotren Tranbia

 

 

Tramway South University extension (completed)

 

In 2018, plans were announced to expand the Vitoría–Gasteiz tram line by 1.4 km to the south, from the Angulema stop to Unibertsitatea via the stations of Florida and Hegoalde. In February 2020, the extension was completed and became operational. The expansion has three new stops—Florida, Hegoalde, and Unibertsitatea—which serve a densely populated area of the city and the university complex. The contractors for the project were Altuna y Uría and Empresa Constructora. The total project cost of the extension is estimated to be EUR10 million. 

 

Tramway Salburuaex extension

 

In February 2020, Euskal Trenbide Sarea awarded a contract to the consortium of Tecsa Altuna and Uría to construct a 2.5-km extension of the Vitoría–Gasteiz line with five new stops. The extension is estimated to cost EUR15.5 million. It will connect Florida to the eastern part of the city. Construction work is scheduled to begin in 2020 and is expected to be completed in 2022. The project is expected to cost around EUR24 million. The Basque government is expected to cover 65 per cent of the project cost, 17.5 per cent will be covered by the Council of Araba, and the remaining 17.5 per cent will be covered by the Vitoría–Gasteiz City Council.

 

Tramway Zabalgana extension

 

The Zabalgana extension will span 6 km and serve 11 stations. It is expected to cost around EUR120 million. The extension is expected to be operational by 2024. Further details are to be announced.

 

 

Box 1 outlines the loss in revenue on Euskotren’s network due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

 

Box 1: Impact of COVID-19 on revenue

 

Euskotren anticipates a total loss in revenue of over EUR10 million in 2020,  caused by a drastic decline in ridership on Euskotren’s network due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. The total revenue loss in March was EUR1.3 million, in April it was EUR2.2 million, and in May it was EUR1.9 million. The forecast for loss in revenue from June–December 2020 is EUR4.9 million.

 

Table 5 shows Euskotren’s COVID demand recovery and comparison.

 

 

 

 

 Table 5: Euskotren’s COVID demand recovery and comparison

Comparison between pre-COVID-19 and the last week of state of alarm

 

Days

Train

Tram Bilbao

Tram Gasteiz

Total Tram

Total Train+Tram

%Demand recovered

Pre-COVID

2-8 March

464,247

61,173

157,436

218,609

682,856

 

COVID

15-21 June

316,801

22,134

75,998

98,132

414,933

60.76%

 

Comparartive weeks 15th and 22nd of june (untill 24the of June)

 

Days

Train

Tram Bilbao

Tram Gasteiz

Total Tram

Total Train+Tram

%Incremented demand

LAST WEEK

15-17 June

142.208

10.292

35.781

46.073

188.281

 

CURRENT WEEK

22-24 June

170.144

11.046

37.294

48.340

218.484

16.04%

Source: Euskotren Tranbia

 

Image 2 shows the demand evolution.

 

Image 2: Evolution in demand

 

 

Source: Euskotren Tranbia

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

The Basque Country tram network has been expanding consistently since the launch of the first line (Bilbao tram line) in 2002. Both the Bilbao and the Vitoría–Gasteiz tram lines are going to be further extended by over 15 km (combined total of both extensions), serving over 26 stations. The cost of the extensions is being covered by the Basque Country government and the respective city councils (the Bilbao City Council and the Vitoría–Gasteiz City Council). While commercial operations on the extensions were scheduled to start by 2021, the opening date could be pushed forward due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

 

(1 EUR [Euro] = 1.10 USD)

 

(The information has been taken from Euskotren’s presentation on ‘Tram projects being developed in Basque County, Spain’ as a part of GMT’s Webinar series on 'Light Rail Projects and Investment: Transit Agency Perspective')