Public Transport in Opava

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History of Public Transport in Opava

The history of tram railway in Opava is connected with the construction of the local power plant. Although these two matters are inseparable, it was the railway that played the key role, not the power plant. The idea of public transport in Opava emerged slowly and it was set in a wider context. The journey from the idea to the realization of the project was not an easy or short one.

The key moment in the history of public transport in Opava was a meeting of the town council that took place on 11 October 1899 when it was decided that Opava was in need of a tram railway. In December the following year the town council was presented a project by the engineer Rudolf Haensel from Olomouc for the construction of a power station. The station would provide electricity for the railway as well as street lighting.

On 28 December 1904 a regulation of the Ministry of Railways from 20 December 1904 was published under the registration number 159 that “granted a concession to build and operate an electric narrow-gauge railway in the provincial capital Opava”. The first carriage was delivered from Studánka on 1 November 1905; others soon followed. The carriages were transported to Opava on trains.

Following a comissional inspection, on 4 December 1905 the Ministry of Railways granted a permission to operate a narrow-gauge railway in Opava. The General Inspection of Austrian Railways also granted a permission to use the carriages, depot, and other operation buildings. On the same day the Opava tram railway was ceremonially  put into operation.

In 1912 the original network of railways changed dramatically. The town council decided to extend the existing line and add another one. On the same year three motor carriages (registration no. 10 – 12) were put into operation. The fleet then had 12 motor and 5 towed carriages. From 1912 the length of the railway tracks remained unchanged. The construction of new tracks was considered, but never realized.

At the beginning of May 1941 the town council discussed the issue of further development of public transport in Opava. Engineer Heller presented the councillors with arguments that resulted in the change from tram transport to trolleybus transport. The tram railway was unsatisfactory and the fleet as well as the tracks were worn out. The proposed project was not realized due to war events. During occupation the town power station as well as the railway stagnated. The railway was partially extended after the war in 1948.

During the liberation fights from 21 to 24 April 1945 the tracks and cabling were buried under debris and the public lighting was destroyed. Fortunately, the power station was not damaged during the fights. After the war the railway was restored to its pre-war state and it seemed that due to the decreased number of inhabitants the capacity would suffice for a time. However, the number of passengers soon reached the pre-war count and the railway failed to meet the increasingly higher standards.

The remaining four trams rode through Opava for the last time on 22 April 1956.  On Sunday 24 August 1952 six trolleybuses started to operate and they became the new symbol of public transport in Opava. Although new bus lines were put into operation as well, trolleybuses were always seen as the more prominent feature of public transport in town. The buses mainly connected the centre of town with the suburbs and adjacent villages.

The development of the trolleybus transport was aided by the converter station in Rybí Market. The original plan was to close the station in 1951 after the distribution network had been reconstructed and the supply of direct current replaced by alternating current. Instead the converter station was adapted to provide energy for the trolleybus network.

It took five years to fully replace the tram network, but in the end the new public transport in town was faster and better, also thanks to the fact that the trolleybuses Škoda 7 Tr 3 were one of the most modern at the time. In 1953 three more trolleybuses were added to the original six, and a year later the fleet boasted 12 trolleybuses.

From March to December 1962 conductors were gradually phased out and passengers learnt to use self-serving ticket machines situated by the driver. This resulted in a change of entry when instead of the back door, the passengers used the front door to get on the bus. The drivers checked season or free tickets, and issued transfer tickets. The new system was both time- and mone-saving.

On 1 January 1983 a non-transfer rate was introduced. In 1984 a line to Kylešovice was built, and trolleybus converter stations in Čajkovského and Kylešovská Streets were put into operation.

From 12 August 1997 the buses and trolleybuses were gradually fitted with automated ticket machines which printed tickets and checked smart cards. On 16 August 1997 new terms of transport and zone rates were introduced. Tickets were randomly checked by inspectors.

In 2002 after 15 years of construction new premises of the transport company opened in Kylešovice. The construction started in 1987 on a greenfield site. In the following two years garages for 48 trolleybuses with 16 trolley tracks and the boiler house were built. The original plan was a product of its time, parts of it were bordering on megalomaniac. This resulted in a lack of finances and delays in construction, and in 1994 the construction was suspended. The unfinished complex was mothballed until 2001 when it was decided to finish the construction.  Trolleybuses moved to the new yard in autumn 2002. Buses followed from Rybářská Street in January 2003.

On 20 October 2013 fire broke out in the yard. Seven trolleybuses were destroyed, several other trolleybuses and buses were damaged. The fire was caused by a technical malfunction on one of the trolleybuses.

Public transport plays an important role in the sustainable development and quality of life in town. The City Transport Company aims to increase the quality of services not only in terms of technical means but also customer services. The transport system should reflect the town needs, with both the passengers and town as the client happy with the result. The hundred-years history, present, and plans for future show that a modern and effective transport company is not a redunant luxury, but an inseparable part of a 21st century Opava.

 

Source: 100 Years of Public Transport in Opava, 2005