Saturday 24 December 2016

Dresden, Germany

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Christmas market is a centuries-old tradition which originated in German-speaking towns.

The Christmas market in Dresden is one of the oldest, dating from around 1434.

I visited Dresden in December 2015.

Trams form the backbone of Dresden's transport system, with a network of 12 lines.

The tram system is operated by Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe (DVB).


Tram line 4 extends some way beyond the Dresden boundary, to the nearby towns of Radebeul and Weinböhla.


Although they run on-street, in the city centre the trams are generally segregated from general traffic.

On segregated sections, platforms are provided at tram stops.

Some of the busier stops also have canopies to provide shelter from the weather.




Away from the city centre, parts of the tram system are not segregated, with trams sharing the road with general traffic.

As in a number of other cities in Central Europe, trams may stop in the middle of the road. 

Other traffic is prohibited from passing along the inside while passengers are boarding and alighting from the tram. 

Almost all of Dresden's trams are modern, low-floor vehicles.  They come in three lengths, with several configurations.

The shortest trams are 30 metres long, with capacity for around 170-180 passengers.

Some are made up of three sections.




Other 30-metre trams have five relatively short sections.

Other trams are more than 40 metres in length.

These examples comprising seven sections are 41 metres long.

They have a carrying capacity of around 260 passengers, equivalent to three London double-deck buses.

The longest ones are 45 metres long, made up of five sections.

These also carry around 260 passengers each.



Most of the trams are single-ended, with a driving cab at only one end and doors on only one side.

A small number of trams are double-ended.  However, from what I could see, these were freely mixed with the single-ended trams on all routes.  There didn't appear to be any route which was restricted to double-ended trams.


Although most of the trams I saw were carrying DVB's bright yellow livery, there were a few in advertising colours. 

The regular tram routes are numbered from 1 to 4, and 6 to 13.

Occasional extra journeys may be designated with an "E" before the route numbers.  These may include regular extra journeys during peak hours, which may not operate over the full route, as well as trams operating for short-term events.

Dresden's last communist era trams were retired from service in 2010.

At least, that was the idea.  The Trams of Hungary and much more site describes the farewell event which had been arranged to mark their final day.

Except, that isn't how it worked out. 

A small number were kept on for further service when required.
Five years later, as 2015 was drawing to a close, I found them still making appearances during peak hours.

I found them on lines 3 and E3.

Unusually, Dresden's tram system has been used to carry freight as well as passengers.  Volkswagen's car factory is on the opposite side of the city to the logistics centre from which parts were supplied.  Both are next to tram lines.

To avoid the need for lorry movements, two freight trams were specially built, to enable components to be transported across Dresden when required.

Production at Volkswagen's Dresden factory ceased during 2016.  The freight trams are currently stored.

Dresden's tram network is complemented by a number of bus routes.

Most of the buses I saw were articulated.

Bus routes numbered 61 to 66 are high-frequency services.

In some places, buses use the trams' segregated infrastructure.

Some of the articulated buses had the four-door layout which I have found in plenty of European cities.

However, there were some with five sets of doors.

This layout is less common, although I have also seen five-door buses in Bratislava.



Although many of the articulated buses I saw were standard diesel-powered vehicles, I also noticed several which were hybrid-powered.

This vehicle was carrying a promotional livery for Dresden's public transport system.

The bus is operating on route 62.  There are plans to extend Dresden's tram system, to enable trams to replace this bus service.

Since my visit to Dresden a year ago, four-axle articulated buses have begun to appear on the city's streets.  These buses have capacity for around 200 passengers each.

Not all the buses I saw in Dresden were articulated.  I also noted a small number of standard single-deck buses.

There is at least one battery-powered bus operating in Dresden.  As far as I can tell, it sticks to one route in the suburbs.

Not all buses operating as part of the DVB network are operated by DVB themselves.

I noticed at least one private company providing buses on DVB services.

Whereas DVB's own articulated buses have four or five sets of doors, this one had three.

As well as an articulated bus, I also saw a short-length single-decker in use.  This was operating on route 84, which serves hillside suburbs to the east of the city centre.

Route 84 is an example of a service which is not entirely self-contained.  It is co-ordinated with a regional bus route (309) which operates into Dresden from beyond the city boundary.

Around half of the service on the route operates as local journeys, entirely within the Dresden boundary.  However, other journeys are provided as part of regional bus route 309.

This image shows one of the latter journeys, displaying both route numbers.

Dresden's public transport system is not limited to tram and bus.  Although Dresden has no metro system, the city is home to two more rail-based systems.

Both systems climb the hillside overlooking the River Elbe, from lower stations at Loschwitz.

A funicular links Loschwitz with the district of Weißer Hirsch.

The other rail-based system is a cable-driven hanging monorail, which climbs from Loschwitz to Oberloschwitz.


The upper station at Oberloschwitz houses a small exhibition which explains how this monorail system works.

DVB's website includes a page describing the funicular and monorail.

Ferry crossings are provided by DVB at four points along the River Elbe.



Three of the ferries are for foot passengers only, while the fourth also carries cars.

Fares on the bus and tram network are part of the tariff system overseen by the regional transport association, Verkehrsverbund Oberelbe (VVO).

Within Dresden, a single ticket costs €2.30 at the time of writing.  This allows unlimited transfers, and is valid for one hour.  The single fare on the ferries is €1.50 single or €2 return.

All day tickets are available for €6.  A family ticket, for up to two adults and up to four children, costs €9 while for small groups of up to five people, there is a small group ticket for €15.  These tickets can be used on the ferries as well as on the bus and tram networks.

Weekly, monthly and annual tickets are also available.

The day tickets are not valid for travel on the funicular or monorail, but the weekly and longer period tickets can be used on these services.  This reflects their status as visitor attractions yet also functioning as public transport for residents in the districts they serve.

VVO co-ordinates the network of bus services which link Dresden with the surrounding region.

A range of vehicle types is used on these services.

As well as low-floor single-deck buses...



...I found high-floor step-entrance buses...

...three-axle vehicles...


...and a minibus.

Fares and tariffs on the services co-ordinated by VVO are based on a zonal system, with Dresden comprising one zone.

Some of these services operate into the centre of Dresden serving the main railway station and Pirnaischer Platz close to the historic old town.  Others terminate a little further out, such as at Dresden Neustadt railway station.  



Trams provide the onward link into the heart of Dresden from these more peripheral termini.

As VVO's common tariff system applies on these bus services, with interchanges permitted, the interchange to and from the tram is included in the fare.

Look closely at the upper line of the destination display on this bus, and you will see the number 81.

As it heads out of Dresden, its journey on route 328 will also cover DVB's route 81.


Long-distance and international coach services operate from, to and through Dresden.



There is no coach station as such.  The main hub for the coach services is a street alongside Dresden's main railway station.

Sightseeing tours of Dresden are provided by two operators, both using double-deck buses which had originally operated on West Berlin's regular bus network.  The buses have been modified with retractable roofs for use on sightseeing tours.

Stadtrundfahrt Dresden (website only in German) operates vehicles in a red colour scheme.


Similarly-named Stadtrundfahrt (website only in German) operates buses in dark red and cream colours.

Other tours available include boat trips on the River Elbe.

Sächsische Dampf-Schiff-Fahrt is one company operating these tours.

A less conventional tour is operated by Trabi World, using classic communist-era Trabant cars.

The tour appears to be self-drive, but is led by a tour guide.

I also found a horse-drawn tour operating from near one of the city centre Christmas Markets.

I have found little information online about these tours.  It may be that they operate only in the run-up to Christmas, for visitors to the markets.

Dresden is home to a couple of transport-related visitor attractions.

The Dresdener Parkeisenbahn (Dresden park railway) is a miniature railway in the Großer Garten park.

It generally runs from Easter to October, but also opens on a couple of weekends in Advent.

My visit to Dresden coincided with one of the weekends that the railway was running.

The railway has steam and battery locomotives.  It was opened in 1950.

During the communist era the railway was operated mainly by members of the Pioneers, an East German children's organisation.

To this day, many of the railway's volunteer workers are children, although the train drivers are adults.

Dresden also has its own transport museum.  This is housed in one of the restored historic buildings in the centre of the city.

Using real items and scale models, the museum covers railways...

... and road transport too.


It also has a working model railway.

As well as road and rail transport, the museum also covers shipping and aviation.

Finally, a quarter of a century on from the reunification of Germany, Dresden still has a number of reminders of the East German era.

One icon of the former East Germany is the hat-wearing "ampelmann" figure used at pedestrian crossings.


Double red "ampelmann" lights are used at pedestrian crossings on the segregated tram lines.

The "ampelmann" has also started to acknowledge women's equality.

A number of lights show a feminine figure.


This one, at a tram crossing, shows both.


The East German regime was fond of contemporary public art.

Examples of this can be found on a number of post-war buildings in the centre of Dresden.