Will the tram in Howald run on one or two tracks? The question remains open even though that stretch of the tram should be operational by 2023. The problem is that the state still has to buy land along the route belonging to Bétons Feidt and Olos Fund. This is a 150-metre strip of land around the Calle de las Scillas.
“Bétons Feidt is still negotiating to reach an amicable solution,” the company told Delano's sister publication Paperjam. This was already the case a year ago, but nothing more has been said about the progress of the discussions. As far as Olos fund is concerned, things are getting more complicated as the investment company is in the middle of a legal battle between the two property developers in the fund, Eric Lux and Flavio Becca. While waiting for an outcome, Olos is being managed by Yann Baden, an independent director. He has not responded to Paperjam's requests for more information. Not knowing who to turn to in order to initiate an exchange, the State had launched an expropriation procedure in 2020.
In January 2021, the minister of mobility and public works, François Bausch, said that he would give himself “until the summer” to find a solution. However, in November 2021, the situation remains unchanged. “There is no progress in the file”, the ministry confirmed. “There still remains, if necessary, a plan B of running the tram on a single track on the section in question.”
The minister had already presented this option, which would result in a service every five minutes instead of every three minutes in this area, as trams would have to wait for the other to pass in the opposite direction to continue its journey.
A decision that could come at the last moment, in 2022
If the summer deadline has been postponed, when will the minister decide to launch this plan B, in case of a total failure of the negotiations? “We are very flexible and will apply plan B if necessary,” the ministry says somewhat mysteriously, without defining when exactly work must begin at this location for the tram to reach Cloche d'or in 2023.
Luxtram was not able to give any further information either.
The ministry says that in either case, “the work will not be delayed”. Work is underway to link the central railway station to the lycée in Bonnevoie via a 1.2 kilometre track by September 2022. Work on the remaining 3.7 kilometres of the line, from Bonnevoie to Cloche d'Or, is due to start in the first half of 2022. The Buchler Bridge, through which the tram is to pass at Howald railway station, is also being widened.
If the negotiations or the expropriation request are successful months or even years after the construction of the single track, the ministry says that new work will still be started to build the second track. The one-lane option is described as a “transitional solution”. But it is undoubtedly costly.
The minister's teams do not provide a precise budget for the Howald tram section, which is included in the €565 million cost of the 16 kilometres of the network.
In 2018 the value of the Olos fund land was estimated at €668 million.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.