Friday, 31 October 2014


If I went to Hell, what transport system would I find there?

Might it look like this?

a postcard from Hell

I can answer that question.  I have been to Hell (and back!) 

Hell is a small Norwegian village, about 30 kilometres east of Trondheim.  According to Wikipedia, the name "Hell" is derived from "Hellir" in the old Norse language, meaning overhang or cliff cave.  With around 300 inhabitants, it will probably be the smallest place I ever include on this blog.

Regular buses pass through Hell, heading to and from Trondheim.  The green livery indicates that they are operated as part of the AtB network, covering Trondheim and the surrounding area.  In the background of the image above is Trondheim (Værnes) Airport.

There are further buses operated by Nettbuss (website in Norwegian only), operating a more limited service to Hell.

This image of one of Hell's bus stops was taken in April 2013.  Thawing snow clearly indicates that, during the winter months, Hell does freeze!

Hell's railway station is worth a look.

The station lies at a junction.  The line north to Bodø, within the Arctic Circle, splits from the line heading east to Storlien just over the border in Sweden.

Although the station is still open to passengers, the station building is no longer in public use.

The goods shed at the eastern end of the platform carries an intriguing (and doubtlessly much-photographed) sign.

Train services to Hell are operated by Norwegian national operator NSB.

Most of the trains calling at Hell are local services between Trondheim and nearby Stjørdal.  The service generally runs hourly on Mondays to Fridays, every 2 hours at weekends.  Trains stop at Hell only on request.

Two trains a day call at Hell on their way to or from Storlien, with connections into and out of places further into Sweden.  Trains to and from Bodø pass through Hell without stopping.

This is an image of Hell itself.

The village lies on the south bank of the Stjørdalselva river.  Hell Bridge carries the road north across the river.

The image below was taken from the bridge, looking west over Trondheimsfjord.

The bridge in the foreground carries the railway, in the background is a second bridge carrying the trunk road.  Prior to that bridge being opened, the trunk road crossed Hell Bridge.

On the north side of the bridge is the Hell shopping centre.  Strictly speaking it isn't in Hell, which lies on the other side of the river.

In the background is the control tower of Trondheim Værnes Airport.


Back across the river, the Hell Grill is rather more appropriately named as it is in Hell.

Should you go to Hell, it is worth stopping off at this petrol station which also serves as the village post office.  Here you can buy postcards such as the one at the top of this article and, if you ask, the postmaster will happily make sure it carries a "Hell" postmark.

I can't resist finishing this article with some evidence of a "train journey from Hell", the half-hour journey to Trondheim.  Quite pleasant it was too!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Montpellier, France

Following decline in the post-war years, when many systems were closed, trams are enjoying a renaissance in the cities of France.

Montpellier is one of a number of French cities to have reintroduced trams over the last couple of decades - others include Strasbourg and Bordeaux as well as Paris.  The first of Montpellier's new tram lines, line 1, opened in 2000.

The reintroduction of trams to Montpellier has been accompanied by considerable traffic restraint in city centre.

These images (left and below) were taken at the Place de la Comédie, in the heart of Montpellier.  Here, trams use a short tunnel.

As well as encouraging greater use of public transport by Montpellier's existing citizens, the tram system has also supported major regeneration of the city. 

These images were taken at Place De France.  At the time, this was the eastern terminus of line 1 although the line has since been extended further into the Odysseum district.

An unusual feature of Montpellier's tram system is that each of the four lines has its own distinctive livery, representing one of the four elements (air, earth, water and fire).

This blue colour scheme, an artistic interpretation of "air", was adopted for line 1...

 ...whereas on line 2, opened in 2006, this red, yellow and green floral pattern was chosen to represent "earth".



The city's main railway station, Montpellier Saint-Roch, is served by all four tram routes.

This image was taken in 2009; this particular tram stop was relocated in 2012, upon the opening of lines 3 and 4.
Trams on line 3 wear this black-based colour scheme representing "water"...

...while on line 4, the livery is gold, interpreting "fire".

A fifth line is now in development.

The tram system forms the backbone of Montpellier's transport system, which is co-ordinated by Transports de l'agglomeration de Montpellier (TaM - website in French only).

Most of Montpellier's bus services stick to the suburbs, acting as feeders to the tram system.  Seven routes do reach the city centre, serving inner city areas which are distant from the tram system.


All the buses I observed were single-deckers with two sets of doors.


In places, bus priority measures have been installed to restrict access to the city centre for other motor traffic.   In these images, a bus activates a rising bollard.

TaM's responsibilities extend beyond the provision of the bus and tram services.  They are also provide car parks, cycle parks and a cycle hire scheme, Vélomagg', which has operated since 2007.


A simple fare system applies to bus and tram services provided by TaM.  At the time of writing, a single journey ticket costs €1.50.  This is valid for one hour, and allows interchanges (but not return trips).  A 24-hour ticket is available for €4, the period of validity starting from the time it is first used; for groups of 2 to 5 people travelling together, a family version of the 24-hour ticket is available for €6.

Longer period tickets, valid for a week or a year, are available.  In addition to the bus and tram network, these generally also allow free parking at designated park-and-ride sites and use of cycle parking facilties next to tram stops.  Multi-modal period tickets also allow use of the VéloMagg' cycle hire scheme although some usage fees may still apply.

TaM has adopted smartcard ticketing, with its smartcard called the EMMA card.  However, electronic key fobs are available as an alternative to a card.

Bus services in the surrounding region are co-ordinated by Hérault Transport (website in French only), a partnership between five local authorities (including the City of Montpellier) and the regional government.  Services into Montpellier generally terminate at suburban interchanges with the tram providing onward connections into the city centre.

A fare of €1.60 applies on all Hérault Transport services, allowing interchange (but not a return trip) for up to 2 hours.  For connections by tram into Montpellier, however, a €2.60 fare applies.

There is a coach station (or, at least, a yard with little in the way of facilities) very close to Montpellier Saint-Roch station.  A limited stop coach service to the towns of Millau and Saint Affrique runs from here four times a day, in conjunction with regional rail services (website in French only).

Two services aimed at tourists operate from the Place de la Comédie.

The Petit Train Montpellier runs regularly, taking in the narrow pedestrianised streets of the city centre as part of its itinerary.

The other service is the  Montpellier City Tour, operated with an open-top minibus, which runs 3-4 times a day.  Both this and the Petit Train Montpellier hibernate for the winter.

Images in this post were taken on two visits to Montpellier, in June 2009 and September 2014.