The renaissance of tramways and urban redevelopment in France



Modal shift from private cars to public transportation is often
presented as one of the pillars of sustainable mobility in cities
(Ferbrache & Knowles 2016) under the “European model”. At the
same time, the (re) building of cities through the reorganization
of daily mobilities is at the centre of debates on urban land use
and urban policies. In France, this debate is happening in the
midst of a spectacular revival of tramways, which had basically
disappeared in contrast to neighbouring countries, and which
are now making a strong comeback in conjunction with the
development of “soft” mobilities (biking, walking), efforts to set
up intermodal hubs at train stations, and the search for a more
harmonious city in terms of land use and social relations. Can
France be considered a model for the development of urban light
rail transit? (Freemark 2012).
Streetcars were major contributors to the growth of European
and American cities in the late 19th century. Alongside commuter
rail, they allowed middle-class workers to move away from the
crowded and expensive city centres. However, after World War I,
the rise of the automobile led to a decline in the use of streetcars
and the length of networks. After World War II, most French cities,
as in the United States, scrapped streetcar networks completely,
removing tracks from city streets, even though this trend was not
followed in all European countries, as shown by the Netherlands,
Germany and Central European countries.
However, the oil shocks and the beginning of the economic
crisis in the 1970s, on the one hand, and the growing congestion
and pollution problems in cities, on the other hand, led to a new
political agenda regarding public transit. After Nantes decided
to restart its tram service in 1985, followed by Grenoble in
1987, more cities embraced light rail as a backbone of their
transportation networks and as a central tool for sustainable
urban development. France can now boast about a quarter of all
world-wide tramway systems launched since 1980.
This raises many questions. …………..”