Photo by Lucas Vallecillos
Warsaw's tram system was destroyed, like much of the city itself, by the Nazi occupiers during World War II but has been rebuilt to slowly become a vital part of city life.
When the system was rebuilt after the war, it was converted from the broad Russian gauge to standard gauge. In Communist times, 90 per cent of people living in Warsaw traveled by public transport but the 1980s saw a sharp rise in prices with the end of state subsidies. A corresponding boom in car ownership led to an almost 50 per cent drop in the use of public transport throughout Poland. The first reaction of the Warsaw city authorities was to build a Metro system, with trams being seen as old-fashioned and a waste of potential road space.
However, as the increased number of vehicles on the streets produced traffic jams, and privatisation of certain aspects of the tram network introduced a better service, trams enjoyed a resurgence. With 120 km of track and more than 350 trams operating during peak hours, Warsaw's network began to be seen as a real asset. New lines have now been built, and low-floored carriages are being introduced to help the elderly, parents with prams and people with disabilities. One encouraging sign is that polls of residents show a marked preference for trams and buses over private vehicles in urban planning surveys.
The city’s public transport network is fully integrated and a “Verkehrsverbund” ticket valid for 24 hours on all trams, buses and Metro costs the equivalent of only a few euros. There are ticket machines on board the trams as well as buses and at Metro stations.