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Map of the current Marseille metro and tram network
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Le Tramway de Marseille is a tramway system in the Frenchmarker city of Marseillemarker. The tramway opened on 21 January 1876 and, unlike most other French cities, has never closed and continues to this day to operate.


The first tram, horse drawn, ran in 1876 on Canebière. The electrification began in 1900 and preceded he delivery of new electric tramcars, all similar as to keep a consistent pool of cars. In 1905, a batch of bogie-tramcars was purchased, these were equipped with trailers and were used on suburban lines.

The system comprised purely urban lines and suburban lines, which stretched to outlying villages. Many tram lines joined in the centre of Marseille on the Canebière and harbour, resulting in headways of less than a minute in the centre city.

This huge network was modernised by the constant introduction of newer tramcars, to replace the older ones. In 1938, thirty-three trailers were recuperated from Paris, these meant that reversible convoys could be operated. In 1939, the tramway company owned and operated 430 tramcars and 350 trailers and 71 lines.

In 1943 a large project, never realised, was designed. This project planned to built large tunnels in the centre of Marseille. The busiest lines would join into two tunnels.In 1949 a further modernisation occurred. The first articulated tramcars was designed and built (Algiers tramway possessed articulated SATRAMO tramcars). These were created by joining two older tramcars. These tramcars remained unique until 1985 when Nantes' tramway opened.

Marseille city-council did not favour keeping its network of trams. Indeed, unorganised development of the car meant that modernisation and expansion of the tram network was hindered. The process of replacing tramways by trolleybuses and buses began after World War II in 1945 and accelerated from 1950. The first closures meant that La Canebière was tramway-free from 1955. The last closure occurred on 21 January 1960.

Line 68

Line 68, opened in December 1893, was the only tramway line to remain in service during the later part of the twentieth century. Line 68 stretched from Noailles to Alhambra, serving La Plaine, the Boulevard Chave, the La Blancarde railway station and Saint-Pierre cemetery. The centre terminus is situated in a tunnel. This 1893 built tunnel was a unique case in Francemarker and was built to give access to the centre city, avoiding the narrow streets of some boroughs in Marseille. Problems with converting the line to bus use meant that it was decided to keep the line.

This line, long of 3 km, remained in suspense until 1965, year it was decided to modernise line 68. Line 68 was modernised in 1969 with the introduction of twenty-one PCC tramcars whilst the whole track was relaid. The first of the PCC cars was received on 26 December 1968, the first tramcar went into service on 20 February 1969. The last old tramcars were withdrawn in spring. Modernisation resulted in an increase of passengers; numbers increased from 4,917,000 passengers in 1968 to 5,239,000 in 1973.

Further modernisation was applied to the PCC cars in 1984. Three new cars were delivered and all cars made into double-cars.

The line closed on Thursday, 8 January 2004, for reconstruction. The short section between La Blancarde and Saint Pierre was reopened as part of a new network on June 30, 2007. The section along Boulevard Chave to Eugène Pierre will reopen in October 2007; the tunnel to Noailles will reopen in summer 2008.

The new network

A new tram network is being built in Marseille, France, which when completed in 2011 will consist of three tram lines. The first phase opened on June 30, 2007. It is part of an urban renewal project which aims to reduce car use and favour pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit users.

Phase 1: Mid-2007 to Mid-2008

On June 30, 2007, the first phase of the new Marseille tram network opened. It consists of one line linking Euroméditerranée in the northwest with Les Caillols in the east. Between Blancarde Chave and Saint-Pierre stations, it runs on part of the former route of Line 68. Blancarde Chave station will not open until October 2007.

In October 2007, the portion of the old Line 68 between Blancarde Chave. and E.-Pierre (near the entrance to the tunnel) will reopen, and two lines will be created. Line 1 will link E.-Pierre and Les Caillols, and Line 2 will go from Euroméditerranée to La Blancarde, where a transfer between the two lines will be created.

La Blancarde train station will become a transit hub: a station on Line 1 of the Marseille Metro will be built, and in 2009 it will be served by TER regional trains.

In mid-2008, two further extensions will be opened. Line 1 will be extended to Noailles via an existing tunnel (used by line 68), and Line 2 will be extended north from Euroméditerranée to Euroméditerranée-Arenc.

Phase 2: 2011

In 2011, a third tram line will be created. Line 2 will be modified: it will serve only the section of the existing line from Euroméditerranée-Arenc to Canabière, where it will be extended south on new track to Castellane and north to Bougainville. A new Line 3 will be created, which will run along the existing Line 2 between La Blancarde and Canabière. It will then run along new track west to Quatre Septembre on the south side of the Vieux-Portmarker. Thus, Line 2 will become a north-south line, and Line 3 will become an east-west line. A new transfer station between Lines 2 and 3 will be built at Cours Saint-Louis.

Rolling stock

Customized Bombardier Flexity Outlook trams are used on the new tram line. Composed of five articulated sections, they are 32.5 m long and 2.4m wide. Twenty-six trams have been delivered; forty will be needed in 2011. They can be extended by 10 m by adding two additional articulated sections.

Their exterior and interior appearance was designed by MBD Design. The exterior resembles the hull of a ship, and the driver's cabin resembles the bow. A lighted circle displays the colour of the line the tram is on. Inside the tram, the floor, walls and ceiling are coloured blue, and seats and shutters are made of wood.


The tram network is run by Le Tram, a consortium of Régie des transports de Marseille and Veolia Transport. The proposal to privatize the operation of public transit was unpopular, and resulted in a 46-day transit strike.


  • Histoire des Transports dans le Villes de France, Jean ROBER
  • Les tramways de Marseille ont cent ans, Jacques Laupiès et Roland Martin. 1st edition: 1975, new edition: ISBN 2-903963-51-7.
  1. François Enver, « Un navire sur rail », published in Ville & transports magazine n°427, page 34.
  2. « L'alliance avec Veolia, un partage des risques et des bénéfices », article publié dans Ville & transports magazine n°427, pages 35.

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