Tramway Renewal: the Vilnius Case

Tramway Renewal: the Vilnius Case


A Dauphin, SYSTRA, FR



Most European cities are currently facing transportation problems due to over-motorization. To cope with the increase of private cars? use and with its repercussions (congestion, pollution, noise, defacement, waste of time, etc.), many European medium size cities have undertaken measures to encourage the use of public transport. In order to offer a real alternative to private cars, they have upgraded and modernised public transport, its image, environment and services by implementing new transport systems called case by case light rail transit, quick, fast or modern tram.

A similar approach applies to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, one of the three Baltic states on the way to enter the European Union in 2004. Since 1991, Vilnius - 600 000 inhabitants- has encountered a dynamic development. After completing the entire renovation of the old town, classified as a world heritage by the UNESCO in 1999, Vilnius has turned into a modern European capital. Under the impulse of its young and active mayor, Arturas Zuokas, Vilnius has changed its image to attract foreign investors and tourists and major urban projects are currently in progress (renovation of the main street, building of Mindaugas bridge, new Municipality building, plan for a new business district on the river bank and facing the historic area).

However, the inner city is starting to suffer from congestion. The increase of car ownership, amplified by the city organisation (60% of inhabitants live in high density areas and work on the other side of the river), creates road bottlenecks with huge consequences on traffic congestion, environmental pollution and dramatic lack of parking places in the centre. The street capacity has already achieved its maximum level and the quality of life in the city tends to deteriorate. Besides car ownership is expected to continue until 2015 with a forecasted growth of 40 % along with the improvement of life conditions and the economic recovery which will further increase motorization, the situation will soon reach its breaking point.

Moreover, existing urban transportation networks (trolleybuses and buses) are not able to offer a real alternative to cars. Rolling stocks need to get renovated and the route network has to be reorganised and extended. Priority lanes have to be implemented to avoid public transport vehicles to be blocked in traffic jams. Journey times have increased of 20 minutes over the last three years and passengers flows decrease each year, in favour of modern cars associated to easiness, comfort and social status.

Therefore, the population and the Municipality of Vilnius started considering the increase of cars and congestion in the inner city as a key problem to be solved. In 1998, the Vilnius Master Plan has been approved, introducing the idea of a new transport system to stimulate public transport and better serve the population demand. Taking advantage of tramway and LRT implementations in other European countries such as Scandinavia, France and England, the mayor of Vilnius chose to deal with this issue proactively and plan a new and modern public transport solution for the next decade. In 2001, he asked for international support to undertake a feasibility study of a modern system in Vilnius.

In September 2001, Systra has been chosen to assist the Municipality in defining a LRT scheme and design the technical characteristics of the first line. Systra has carried out this study over 12 months. To do so, Systra sent a project manager to be resident in Vilnius with the task of conducting and co-ordinating the project with the expertise of a large team of consultants and with contributions of the City planning Agency (Vilniaus Planas) and the Vilnius Transport Company (Susisiekimo Paslaugos).

The first task was to understand the city structure and the socio-economic development, in order to identify the current trends of the Vilnius urban area. With Susisiekimo Paslaugos, Systra conducted an Origin-Destination passenger survey covering the whole area served by the municipal public transport network. The resulting matrix allowed building the ?reference situation? and simulating the current traffic demand on EMME 2 software.

The results highlight the city centripetal functioning and the impact of the 60?s functionalist urbanisation on mobility. High density housing areas located in the suburbs generate massive traffic flows to the centre. Major traffic corridors fluctuate between 5 000 and 6 000 passengers in peak hours, which makes the modern tramway the most appropriate system to match the demand.

How is the network shaped ? The urban spread of the city, the amenities and business areas dispersion force to imagine a star?shaped network linking the city outskirts to the centre and to serve new housing and offices estates programs. Several route structures have been planed (with loop, fork, ?). Multicriteria analysis has lead to choose a 3-routes network on surface, with a main interchange point at the barycentre of the city (Municipality square on Gedimino Av).

These routes will be all connected to the current trolleybus, bus and microbus networks and will be combined with Park & Ride facilities to attract car users and make them benefit of tram speed and clockwork provided by the exclusive right-of-way. At the last stage, the whole network will serve 48 % of population within the urban area, 59 % of the work places and 67 % of the educational and academic institutions.

The Municipal Council approved the 2010 LRT master plan in May 2002, and chose to start a detailed technical study for the priority line. The first route, ?A Line?, is a north-south 10.4 km-long. It has 18 stations including 10 sites managed as interchange hubs. This route will serve the main railway station, the old town, the government and ministries district, the new business district as well as the new Municipality building.

Overall the route will create a true link between the two banks of the Neris river. With the modern tramway network, Vilnius aims strengthening its public transports through an integrated and multimodal system. This new network is expected to offer a attractive alternative to private car use, to improve accessibility to the city centre and a better quality of life in crossed neighbourhoods.

The traffic simulation study forecasts between 150 000 and 170 000 trips per day. The rolling stock park will count 19 vehicles of 42 m, full low floor, with a capacity of 300 passengers. With a frequency of 3?30 during peak hour, it will be possible to link the central railway station to the Santarisk├Ęs main hospital in 27 minutes. Passengers will then save 30% of their current journey time.

The global cost of the project has been estimated at 169 millions ?, i.e. 16,2 millions ? per km, which includes around 45 millions ? for the rolling stock.. The next step of the project consists of detailed studies allowing to prepare the international tender. The forecast schedule assumes an implementation in 2007.

At the same time, new road and parking schemes are expected to be carried out along with the implementation of the first route. The modern tramway network will also take opportunity of the building of strategic road infrastructures, like the three yet missing or uncompleted bypasses, which will restrict transit traffic through the centre, and two parking lots to compensate parking reduction at street level.

To provide the Municipality with an exhaustive overview of the project, Systra has completed these tasks with economic and financial analyses and proposed legal schemes to implement the process.

This project has been considered as a strategic development opportunity and a planning tool by the Municipality. A great deal of attention and money will be dedicated to its design to have a major structural effect on urban development. It will bring new lightings on neglected areas and a positive impact on land use and value. With this project, Vilnius will clearly turn the image of a former soviet city and turn into an attractive place to live.


Association for European Transport