The city of Saint Petersburg, Russia once was boasting
the largest tramway network in the world, consisting of
about 340 kilometres of unduplicated track in late 1980s.
Since 1995, the tramway network has seen a sharp decline in
size due to the removal of major portions of track, particularly
in the city centre; so St. Petersburg lost its record in favour
of Milan, Italy and Melbourne, Australia.
While it still had 285 km in 2001, the track extent in early
2007 was just over 220 km. It is operated by Gorelektrotrans,
a municipal organization that runs trams daily on 39 routes
and also owns the trolleybus network.
History Early days
Saint Petersburg saw the arrival of street rail transportation
during the 1860s in form of horse-drawn rail carriages.
The first, freight-only street railway track was opened in 1854
to serve one of the industrial city suburbs.
In 1863 three passenger lines in the
city centre came into operation.
Several private companies were formed, and the horsecar
network eventually expanded to 25 routes covering over
100 kilometres of track.
Carrying over two million passengers a year, the
street rail network in Saint Petersburg
proved a successful commercial venture.
The first demonstration of an electric tram in Saint
Petersburg occurred on August 22, 1880.
Fyodor Pirotsky, an engineer who demonstrated the tram
to the public, hoped that the Horsecar Stock Company,
which possessed a monopoly on all rail transportation
in the city, would consider replacing traditional
horse-drawn rail carriages with electric-powered ones.
Despite the fact that all tests were successful, Pirotsky's
proposal was dismissed on the grounds that equipping existing
tram tracks for electric traction and purchasing or building
compatible tram vehicles would be too expensive.
In the winter of 1894, electric tramways came back to Saint
Petersburg; this time, however, they ran on tracks over
ice (during winter season) covering the Neva river.
An electric public transit company was formed, and several
routes crossing the river in various places
began regular operation.
Even though the Horsecar Stock Company still possessed
absolute rights on city street railways, and hence
filed a lawsuit against the electric tram operators,
it eventually lost the case because the judge claimed
that the horsecar company's monopolizing agreement with
the city did not cover laying tracks on ice.
Beginning of service
On September 3, 1902, the contract between the city
administration and the horsecar company has expired,
and the entire horsecar street rail system, including
track, carriages, horses, maintenance buildings and
other equipment, became property of the city of Saint
Petersburg, on the condition that the city would pay
for the takeover over the period of 12 years.
Immediately following this, Saint Petersburg began
planning out the future electric tramway network,
which was due to replace the aging horsecar one.
A number of issues had to be resolved; in particular,
the narrow-gauge horsecar tracks were to be replaced
by the heavy rail-grade ones; the network had to be
electrified, and new depots suitable for
electric trams had to be constructed.
Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the public
transportation in Saint Petersburg has been continuously
underfunded, resulting in poor
maintenance and unreliable service.
A lot of existing tramway track has been demolished,
and the trend continues up until today, which upsets
many passengers and public transit enthusiasts.
There are currently no officially proclaimed plans to
abandon the network completely, although mass track
withdrawals had started in 2001 and running until nowadays.
Two last new branch lines have been opened in 1999 to
connect recent residential developments in the northwest
(Dolgoe Ozero, Komendantsky Aerodrom, Lakhtinsky Razliv)
to the newly opened Staraya Derevnya station
on the Saint Petersburg Metro.
During 2005 and 2006, since last change of the
'Gorelectrotrans' management in September 2005,
more than 20 additional km of unduplicated tracks
had been withdrawn, including not only central part
ones, but even a 3-km section in outskirt residential
area, which seriously affected system's
New withdrawals are being lobbied by road constructing
administration, believing that decreasing tram traffic
gives more freedom to motorcar one.
There are currently 39 operating tramway routes in Saint
Petersburg, 32 of which operate on a daily basis, while
others operate on business days only.
About one third of the track extent is operated on regular
basis, having frequencies of 10 minutes and lower.
Other sections are operated with frequencies up to 30 minutes,
and retaining central lines are almost abandoned, artificially
having no passenger-carrying value at all.
Fleet decreasing trend retains; at Fall 2006 there had been
about 950 cars operated by 5 depots, most of them are
old-fashioned four-axle ones.
About half of the fleet is quite ancient, new cars'
purchases are being done not more than 30 per annum.
Most of the tramway vehicles currently in use on the network
were built locally by the Saint-Petersburg Tramway-Mechanical
Plant, or PTMZ, with the exception of the KTM-5M3 series, which
was produced in the town of Ust-Katav
in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia.
Tram vehicles of the following series are
currently in operation:
LM-68M - four-axle, three-door single
cars, manufactured 1973 through 1978 by PTMZ.
KTM-5M3, model 71-605 - four-axle, three
door single cars manufactured in Ust-Katav in 1982-1983.
LVS-86 and LVS-86M - six-axle, four-door
articulated cars, manufactured 1987-1997 by PTMZ.
M designates the refurbished, modernized LVS-86 cars in use since 2003.
LVS-97 - six-axle articulated cars, manufactured by PTMZ since 1997.
LM-99 - four-axle single cars, manufactured by PTMZ since 1999.
Between in 1907 and late 1960s, the Saint Petersburg
tramway network used to operate British-built Brush tram engines.
Several cars of this series, as well as other model types
built by PTMZ but no longer in operation, are kept in working
condition and can be rented for special occasions, such as
weddings, birthday parties, and other celebrations.
All types of cars ever operated in Saint Petersburg were
demonstrated during the 90-year tramway network
anniversary parade in 1997.
All historical cars are stored in former Depot No. 2 at
Vasilyevsky island, which will be closed for passenger
services on January, 2007.
The enthusiasts working in the depot and museum are in great
doubt that the unique collection, considered being one of the
best in Europe, will not suffer due to that change.