Bergen light rail wins transport design prize

The train is citizens’ preferred way to travel

Photo: Nina-no / Wikimedia Commons  Bergen’s light rail train at the terminus between the train station and Byparken, the large park in the city’s center. The other terminus on this line is Flesland Airport.

Photo: Nina-no / Wikimedia Commons
Bergen’s light rail train at the terminus between the train station and Byparken, the large park in the city’s center. The other terminus on this line is Flesland Airport.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Bergen Light Rail won this year’s prize for transport design. This is the first rail system in Norway designed in a holistic way. It shows courage and innovation. It has truly become the citizens’ preferred way of travel. Today the light rail is one of the city’s clearest brands, with high social status. According to the jury the city has taken risk and succeeded. It is one of the most successful planning schemes done after WWII in Norwegian cities.

The newly created Norwegian Center for Design and Architecture is behind the award. The organization is a merger between the Foundation for Design and Architecture in Norway and the Norwegian Design Council. The organization, located in Oslo, will promote quality and innovation using design and architecture to develop surroundings, products, and services.

In 2000, the city of Bergen decided on the construction of a light rail transit between the city center and the airport at Flesland. The project required a financing package based on cooperation between the national and local government. The project was approved by Stortinget and construction was started in 2008. The entire line will be finished by 2016 and will serve about 25 percent of the region’s population and be integrated with existing bus services.

The city of Bergen signed a development contract with Stadler Pankow for the first low-floor light rail vehicles. The contract includes technical and cosmetic design as well as planning of the homologation process. The first vehicle arrived in Bergen in December 2009. So far there are 20 vehicles operating.

The first public transport in Bergen was the Bergen Tramway, which operated between 1897 and 1965. It was limited to the inner parts of the city and did not reach the suburbs. The city decided to close it as the future was private cars, diesel busses, and trolleybuses. The result was more traffic than the roads could handle. Consequently the planners started to think about a better solution.

Early on, an internationally proclaimed design competition was held. This involved landscape architecture, industrial design, graphic design, textile design, and branding. In other words, working with principles for landscape architecture, design and furnishing of stops, exterior and interior designs of the trams, uniforms for the conductors, graphic profile, and branding strategy. The solutions needed to be as user friendly as possible.

Plans for the light rail are already being developed for future extensions to other sections of the city. The aim is to decrease the growth in traffic and replace the greatest part of the growth by public transport.

In June 2010 the line was officially opened by Queen Sonja of Norway.

This article originally appeared in the March 27, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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