While Sarajevo was under Austro-Hungarian administration, the city was used as a testing area for new inventions before they were installed in Vienna. The Sarajevo tramway was launched as a test line on New Year’s Day 1885,making the Sarajevo tram network one of the oldest in Europe.
The tram network continued in operation for over a century, including during difficult times such as the First and Second World Wars. During the Siege of Sarajevo of 1992-1995, trackwork and numerous vehicles were badly damaged but although the tram operation stopped for part of the siege, service resumed in April 1994. Since then, the tram network has been facing difficulties, with most of the vehicles approximately 40 years old.
Hidajet Šarić is 46 years old. He has been working as a tram driver for the Sarajevo tram network for over 20 years. He remembers when he was a schoolboy travelling to and from school by tram. “Many of the trams that I drive are the same ones that I used to travel on when I was a child,” he says. Hidajet explains that the last time that new vehicles were bought was just before the Winter Olympic Games that were held in Sarajevo in 1984.
Over the years, the city purchased some second-hand trams and worked on maintenance and upgrading, but the existing fleet is far from the quality of the trams used in other cities in Europe and beyond. Hidajet explains that he and his colleagues every now and then have technical issues when the trams break down and need to be towed for maintenance. This is a dangerous procedure as they have to be driven backwards, including round difficult turns without good visibility which poses a serious risk of accident. He adds that the passenger experience is not always good enough, as the trams do not have air conditioning.
However, these problems are about to end with the support of the European Investment Bank (EIB) – the lending arm of the European Union – which has offered €40 million for the modernisation of Sarajevo’s public transport. These improvements will significantly increase safety and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the surrounding municipalities.
Sarajevo, like other cities in the Western Balkans, has some serious problems with air pollution. This is in part a result of increased use of vehicles for commuting, in particular during the winter season. Adnan Steta, Sarajevo Canton’s Minister of Transport, explains that the idea for the project to modernise the city’s public transport mainly came out of the need to reduce air pollution in the city. He welcomes this investment and support from the European Investment Bank. “The new system and vehicles equipped with the latest technology will help us increase the number of passengers using public transport, and decrease traffic congestion in the city while creating a cleaner and greener Sarajevo,” he says.
About the project
The EIB has provided €40 million for the urban transport network in the Canton of Sarajevo. The financing, provided on the most favourable terms, will enable modernisation and extension of the tram and trolley bus networks by replacing existing vehicles and building new tramlines. The establishment of a more efficient and reliable public transit system is expected to enable a shift of passengers from private to public transport.
As a result, it will help to reduce commute times, greenhouse gas emissions, noise levels and the number of traffic accidents in the Canton of Sarajevo. The project will contribute to the fulfilment of the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans and the EIB’s climate action goals for the region relating to sustainable transport.
Photo credits: GRAS Sarajevo
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