Big day for Bergen with ‘Bybanen’

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Almost half a century after Bergen shut down its tramway, it was resurrected, sort of, with the opening of a new light urban railway on Tuesday. Queen Sonja was the first official passenger to take the new Bybanen, which has been two-and-a-half years in the making.

Bergen's new light railway hit the streets this week, amid much controversy. PHOTO: SVEIN HÅVARD DJUPVIK via Flickr

More than 6 million people are expected to use the new service every year. With its dedicated path, it is expected to relieve Bergen’s heavy traffic pressures, which last winter triggered an acute air pollution crisis in the city.

The first section of Bybanen (roughly pronounced “bee-bahn-en”) runs from the city center to Nesttun, a distance of almost 10 kilometers. It comes at a price tag of NOK 2,2 billion (approx. USD 350 million).

The next step, due to be completed in 2013,  is a 3.6 km extension to the shopping center Lagunen on the edge of town. There are also plans for extensions to Bergen’s airport at Flesland and to suburbs west and north of town.

All other traffic is supposed to yield to Bybanen, an unfamiliar concept for Bergen motorists with two collisions occurring during test-runs. Further damage has been caused by a derailment. On the opening day, the service had capacity problems because some cars are in the repair yard, local media reported.

People in Bergen have mixed feelings about the new railway. Many have protested and some have demanded a referendum over the costs and the choice of paths, which has required what  Mayor Gunnar Bakke called “a classic Bergenese debate.” He said he is confident that more and more people will use Bybanen as it expands over the next decade.

Views and News staff