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Bertan > Bertan 10 Gipuzkoako trenak > Ingeles bertsioa: Tramways and Trolleybuses

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Tramways and Trolleybuses

The urban expansion experienced by large cities during the last century wouldn't have been possible without the parallel development of the appropriate means of transport. Roads and stagecoaches were extremely uncomfortable, slow and noisy, meaning that the decision was soon made to adapt the principles of the railway to urban transport. This brought about the birth of the tramway.

121. The San Sebastian to Hernani tramway in the Plaza de Gipuzkoa.
121. The San Sebastian to Hernani tramway in the Plaza de Gipuzkoa.

In Gipuzkoa, the first trams circulated between the Miraconcha and Ategorrieta suburbs, via the Boulevard, in 1887, after which its route was immediately extended to include Venta-Berri and Rentería respectively. In 1893, a tramway was established in Irún and later extended to Fuenterrabía in 1896.

Like in other parts of the world, the first tramways in Gipuzkoa used animal haulage, since the passage of smoky steam engines through the streets of the city was unhealthy and dangerous. However, neither was the use of horses free from problems, and the service sometimes had to be suspended when the animals fell ill.

122. The last garden tramway in San Sebastian.
122. The last garden tramway in San Sebastian.
123. San Sebastian's electric tramway.
123. San Sebastian's electric tramway.

In order to improve the service, the San Sebastian Tramway Company decided to electrify its lines, and the new system of traction was inaugurated in 1897, even before cities like Madrid and Barcelona. The line running from Irún to Fuenterrabía was electrified in 1919.

The change of century saw the start of the real expansion of the tramway service, both by the San Sebastian Tramway Company, as well as by other companies. The former established lines running to Amara (1903), Igueldo (1912) and Gros (1915). In 1903, the Mount Ulia Company built a touristic tramway running from Ategorrieta to the said mount while, that same year, the San Sebastian to Hernani Tramway Service started running. Finally, in 1912, the Gipuzkoan tramway network was completed with the inauguration of an electric tramway running from San Sebastian to Tolosa.

124. A Biarritz-Tolosa Tramway Company-share.
124. A Biarritz-Tolosa Tramway Company-share.

For years, tramways provided an efficient and indispensable transport service, both to passengers and merchandise, and especially the Tolosa line which, in combination with the city network, went as far as the quais of Donostia and Pasajes.

Unfortunately, the hard years of the war and the immediate post-war period prevented the tramways from being properly renovated. Vehicles dating from the beginning of the century could hardly guarantee the service and the owner companies, backed by town councils and other institutions, decided to do away with the tramways, like in France, in stead of proceeding with their logical modernisation, like in Germany.

From 1948 to 1952, the San Sebastian city tramways, like the Tolosa tramway, were replaced by modern trolleybuses, while in 1953, the tramway from Irún to Fuenterrabía disappeared, being replaced by smoking buses. The tramway completely disappeared from Gipuzkoa in 1958 when the Hernani line was closed down.

125. The Topo station in Rentería, 1925.
125. The Topo station in Rentería, 1925.

For a number of years, quiet and clean trolleybuses became the inseparable emblem of Donostia, mainly dominated by the elegant double-deckered buses imported from London in 1962. The Igueldo line offered an incomparable panorama of the bay of Donostia. But, like the tramways, someone decided that they were out of fashion and that they disturbed the growing traffic, without realising that the factor which really disturbed the traffic was neither the tramways nor the trolleybuses, nor the wide pavements with their traffic lights, but the traffic itself, generated by the uncontrolled development of the car. Therefore, the non-contaminating trolleybuses, which ran on electric energy produced by the Berchín falls in Leizarán, were replaced from 1968 until 1974 by smoking buses.

During the recent years, growing environmental awarenses and the problems caused by the excessive development of cars, have brought about an increase in the promotion of public transport and, with this, the rediscovery of tramways and trolleybuses. In places where this means of transport was wisely not eliminated, these services have been modernised, while in many cities from which they were withdrawn in France, Great Britain and the United States, they are now being re-introduced.

126. An animal-hauled tramway in Irún.
126. An animal-hauled tramway in Irún.
127. The San Sebastian to Tolosa tramway.
127. The San Sebastian to Tolosa tramway.

The modern tramway combines respect for the environment with a transportation capacity similar to that of the underground, but with investments which don't even reach 20% of the cost of the latter. Recent studies propose thar tramways be reintroduced to the streets of Donostia and, perhaps at the beginning of the century, we will be able to travel once again in a means of transport that should never have disappeared.

128. The Hernani tramway in Loiola.
128. The Hernani tramway in Loiola.
129. A Daimler trolleybus.
129. A Daimler trolleybus.
130. A city trolleybus.
130. A city trolleybus.
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