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Karlsruhe tram in the middle of the road
photo source: Distrita – S5 with comfortable train-tram wagons in Karlsruhe

There are tons of cities that are in the same size as Karlsruhe. But 90 percent or more doesn’t have a transit solution at all.

There are only a few cities with about 300 000 in the world that do have a tram or a metro solution. But not on the massive scale as Karlsruhe does have. This unique transit system is over 30 years old and it is still working. 

In this article, I wanted to have a look at this German city which is so wicked good that it’s a really interesting question of why other cities around the world haven’t focused on a train-tram system.

I personally think that Karlsruhe is the town in the world that is showing how a city at its scale can have an efficient transit system. It really eases the traffic in the city! Read on… and find out why.

What if the Trams in your City could run on Rail Tracks!?

In Karlsruhe and it’s area, they have focused on giving it’s citizenship these train-trams lines that links many of the villages and small cities together with Karlsruhe city. The city itself got some local tram lines, but it is these train-trams that makes the transit system unique in Karlsruhe. We have been to Bad Wildbad, which is a small city outside of Karlsruhe which you can read about here. All of the train-tram lines in this town area can use both local tram lines and the train tracks. They can reach different sides of Karlsruhe city so that you don’t need to reach the central train station for example first.

All of the train-tram lines in Karlsruhe either reach each side of the city or goes through the central train station. So, you need to take the right line to get yourself to the correct place that you want to reach. However, all of the stations got very good information. You really don’t need to understand German to understand the map. Unlike in Paris, Karlsruhe does everything right. Even the tickets just work for traveling between several zones. Yes, you have a quite nice 24-hour ticket that works on 1-7 zones passes. It simply makes it very easy to get around for a quite nice price of just 11 EUROS !!!

This train-tram system shines. Also, all of the staff and people that we met were so friendly and supportive with all of the questions. Compared to Paris, this town really shines.. or even Oslo, München, Bergen, Szczecin and Düsseldorf to name a few.


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Map of Karlsruhe Transit routes
photo source: Distrita – For just 11 Euros for a day ticket you can actually visit the whole transit network which is run by KVV. Incredible!
Schlossgartenbahn in Karlsruhe
photo source: Distrita – Here is one of the locomotives using real steam at the Schlossgartenbahn train line in the Karlsruhe castle park which is really huge

You know where You’re Going in Karlsruhe

Once you enter the city through the Karlsruhe main train station. You notice something different about this city. You can breathe! The noise and stress are almost totally gone. Once you start to walk the city, the aura of the city manages to rewards you a lot with a positive vibe.

Almost all of the cards are gone near the main train station. So, the very first thing you probably will see is trams in the streets and the fact that they run very silently and also very often. This managed to put me into a very interesting mood. Your heart begins to Love this town fast as mine did. Karlsruhe is breathing like a living soul. It is for sure a unique and healthy city, with the personality to live in I think. I’ve only managed to feel in Porto, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and in Bergen.

Karlsruhe is amazing. The town got more than 300 000 citizens, however… those that have created the city itself are amazing. It’s so easy to get around without a map and the design of the parks and big spaces in town is beautiful. The city malls are also located easy and just side by side with the main train station, Karlsruhe also got a Zoo. Yes, in the middle of the city!


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The pollution in this town is so low that they can do this! Incredible

I could end the description here for other cities. But the impressions that this city gave me, don’t stop with seeing a Zoo in the middle of the city! This town also has a castle that is easy to reach, which looks wicked big on a map. And yes it is! The shape is also all in the circle. The whole area is a humongous huge park, which consists of Karlsruhe castle that sits in the middle of the park. However! That’s not all.

Karlsruhe castle park also got a very nice attraction for the whole family or for every train enthusiasts. In this huge park, you also got a steamy train going around, which is called Schlossgartenbahn. This summertime train line attraction runs across the whole garden area with a real steam engine that produces real steam! The Schlossgartenbahn is open from April until the end of October. It is for sure a nice trip for everyone in the family. The whole trip takes about 15 minutes, crossing the whole park that is full of people in various activities.


The cost of the trip ain’t expensive. For 5,- EURO you get a nice trip around for sure. There is also a man who is acting as a conductor before the train leaves and arrives that makes the trip around even more special. He speaks only in German, but it also feels more authentic. Karlsruhe is in Germany, so the German language is heard everywhere where you go.

The city center of Karlsruhe
photo source: Distrita – One of the trams only lines in Karlsruhe city area. This line runs from Durlach to Oberreut

Nice people that care about their city and the Transit network which is Huge

I’ve never talked so much with Hotel personal like in Karlsruhe. She told me everything about Karlsruhe to me in fluid English. Also when asking people at stations, inside trams and at the shopping malls people respond very polite back.

It really seems to me as if the citizens here love their city very much and I can understand. I am so amazed about the air quality here, the transit options and the people here. It really puts me into thinking why not other cities in the world with the same size doesn’t put as much effort into public transportation as this city does.


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The tram-train network is huge! The total length of this transit system is whooping 76 km and that includes all of the sections within the Karlsruhe city boundaries.

Here is all of the interesting facts about Karlsruhe train-tram transit system, which also can be called Light Rail. However, since these trams also run on normal train tracks with much higher voltage (power) it is a bit different.

– route length approx. 76 km (including all dc sections within the Karlsruhe city boundaries);
– 1435 mm gauge;
– 6 urban tram lines (1-6; + line 8, which offers only a few journeys)

– 5 regional light rail lines that share urban tram routes: S1/S11, S2, S4/S41, S5 and S51/S52
– S1 and S11 (750 V dc) share most of their route and provide a 10-minute service on their urban section;
– S2 (750 V dc) provides a 10-minute service on its urban section between Reitschulschlag and Rheinstrandsiedlung;
– S4 runs on DB tracks from Achern and Rastatt to Karlsruhe Albtalbahnhof, and from Durlach to Heilbronn and Öhringen
– dual-voltage operation (ac/dc);
– S5 runs on newly-built tram tracks through Wörth, then on DB tracks across the Rhine River;
on the urban section through Karlsruhe line S5 provides a 10-minute service; beyond Grötzingen, some trains
continue to Bietigheim-Bissingen, where transfer is provided to Stuttgart‘s S-Bahn line S5
– dual-voltage operation (ac/dc);
– S51/S52 were introduced on 12 Dec 2010 serving the upgraded rail line from Wörth to Germersheim;
while S52 enters Karlsruhe on the tram route served by line S5 (skipping some stops), S51 uses the faster railway line to Hauptbahnhof;
each line loops around the city before returning to Germersheim on the other route

– lines S31 and S32 are operated jointly with the DB on mainline tracks only.
– line S3 is actually an hourly extension of the Rhein-Neckar S-Bahn from Mannheim via Heidelberg, not operated with light rail cars.
– line S6 runs from Pforzheim Hbf thru Neuenbürg to Bad Wildbad, which is a small relaxing city outside of Karlsruhe city boundaries that you can read about here
– line S33 runs from Bruchsal Bf to Germersheim, which is also outside of Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe Panorama train-trams
photo source: Distrita – This is how the train-tram trains look like inside. Very comfortable seats, it is clean and as a bonus, you have a panorama view too !!!

New tunnel in Karlsruhe in the making could be seen on our visit

Things are changing in Karlsruhe. Soon S1, S11, S2, S4, S41, S5, S51, S52, and various tram only lines will be using this new tunnel. When we visited the town, there were many construction places. However, with many construction areas. The city made it clear that they know what they are doing and so moving around in the city near the construction places wasn’t an issue at all. Not like in Oslo, where all of the streets are cut off totally for any kind of traffic. Amazing!

The tunnel will shorten the travel time for the train-trams that is today running through the pedestrian zones, and the stability of the timetable will improve. It is a huge trend in Germany to dig these tram tunnels and so Karlsruhe is doing the same. The interesting question will be if the pedestrian areas where the trams is running today will be closed for good or not. We hope that the city will keep these for the tram lines in the city. Trams are known to give the commercial areas a lift and so to eventually close them down for tram traffic has shown to be very fatal in those cities that have done this.

In German cities like Dortmund and Bochum this seems to have made impact the negative way. However in Gelsenkirchen which has put the tram tunnel directly under the shopping street in the city. This works very well. Also in Essen, their train-tram system works nicely as it eases the traffic. It will be interesting to see how this new tunnel will affect Karlsruhe city. There is something about seeing a tram running through the city streets. When you hide it, then people tend to choose their car more? Or…! I hope I am totally wrong on this.


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Karlsruhe Tram at a Station
photosource: Distrita – Here you see S6 line in Pforzheim Hbf, which is ready for going to Bad Wildbad. This line is special as it runs as a tram within the Bad Wildbad town
  • Features
  • Comfort
  • Style
  • Mess
  • Pricing
4.5

Karlsruhe Transit Final Verdict

Amazing network and stunning views. The trams in Karlsruhe runs in the city, on rail tracks, on amazing bridges and through interesting tunnels. They have a lovely comfort. Both the older wagons and the newer ones are excellent. However, if there is something that Karlsruhe could improve on it is the traveling information inside of the trams. Especially on the older ones. There is nothing, so you have to sort of read the map to understand. It’s not difficult to understand the maps of this city, however a digital station screen inside the older wagons would be a good idea.

The comfort however is very good inside the trams and the train-tram wagons. On the S6 line to Bad Wildbad, the seats layout inside the wagons is really nicely done. Also the fact that the wagons do have a curved window glass on the top so you can see more of the mountains is a nice touch on some of the older train-tram wagons.

The mess score which is set at 5 stars here is related to good cleaning. Even in the older tram wagons there was no mess around on the floors. People seems to really care about throwing garbage in the cans and not in the wagons. Which is a great thing! The pricing was also perfect. I mean.. to pay only 11 Euros for a Day ticket that works on the whole KVV network and VPE rail network lines is just incredible. How did they do this??? I am really stunned about this for sure. If all of the European cities had this kind of price then car usage would for sure be much less.

Karlsruhe is a fantastic city. Not just for a transit enthusiast as I am. But also for every tourist or traveling person staying in this city. Karlsruhe is an example on how cities should be built. Really! Now, Paris, Hamburg, Bergen, Amsterdam etc… or even Oslo where Distrita is at. Read this and change your cities,… because Karlsruhe is really showing the world on how transit should be built.

Source
Distrita own Experience
KVV Website
Urbanrail.net Karlsruhe

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