ON MAY 28 an 8·5 km extension of the Amsterdam tram network was inaugurated by Transport Minister Karla Peijs. Known as IJtram, the line provides a connection between Amsterdam Centraal station and a new housing estate taking shape on the east side of the city.

Being built on six artificial islands in the IJmeer, IJburg is one of the so called Vinex housing and urban development zones being developed under an agreement between the national ministries of Transport and Urban Planning & Environment and the local and regional authorities. This agreement requires the provision of good quality public transport services to the new housing areas from the outset to stimulate the use of public transport and to discourage car use wherever possible.

For most of its 8·5 km length, IJtram runs on a fully-segregated alignment, suitable for operation at up to 70 km/h. There are nine stops, including the two termini. Mid-way along the route is a 1·8 km tunnel under the former docks of the Amsterdam port, now redeveloped. This means that the trams must be equipped with onboard safety systems to operate through the tunnel. Total cost of construction for the line is put at €174m, excluding the tunnel. Of this, 95% has come from the transport ministry.

Opening of the line was originally scheduled for 2002, but was postponed because of a delay in the housing construction programme; it was feared that operating losses would be too high due to the lack of inhabitants at that time. If the housing project is fully completed as planned, the tram line is expected to carry around 50000 passengers per day from 2015.

CAPTION: LEFT: Inaugural Combino 2134 is seen at the IJbuirg terminus, where a new housing zone is taking shape

RIGHT: A GVBCombino calls at Rietlandpark on June 3, close to the entrance of the 1·8 km Piet Hein tunnel Photos: Quintus Vosman