Tram Cars Saving Time and Money for Wuhan Commuters

May 17, 2018 By Joseph S. Margai from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China

The fish-like tram car has been described as the option for traffic jams in Wuhan city

Waiting patiently at the various tram car stations in Wuhan city, were commuters, who eagerly wanted to beat the usual traffic jam to their work or business places.

Passengers were waiting for tram cars at the stations, which have gradually become popular among local residents of the city for four principal reasons -affordability, comfortability, time saving and reliability.

The fish-like technology, which is the driving force behind the productive workforce of the people of Wuhan city, has been applauded by its users.

Wuhan, which is the provincial headquarter town of Hubei Province, is situated in central part of China. According to official report, in 2015, Wuhan city had a population of 10.60 million. It is recognised as the political, economic, financial, cultural, educational, and transportation centre of central China.

For a city with over 10 million people, the tram car is the fastest means of commuting passengers to and from various destinations.

It runs at 75 kilometres per hour, carrying 300 passengers each trip. The four above mentioned reasons make the tram car the most preferable means of transportation for the Chinese commuters in Wuhan city.

“I pay only two Chinese Yuan (RMB 2), less than one United States Dollars (US$0.31) to go anywhere in the city of Wuhan. If I take a taxi to go anywhere in Wuhan I will pay 10 times that amount,” said Su Mei, a lady who commutes on the tram car on a daily basis. She explained the importance of this means of transportation through an English interpreter.

Two Chinese Yuan is equivalent to over two thousand Sierra Leonean Leones or exactly two thousand, four hundred and nineteen Sierra Leonean Leones (Le2, 419).

Passengers in the city of Wuhan have already fallen in love with the tram car because it’s not only affordable but it saves lot of time. For most Chinese passengers, time is everything and anything that could save enough time for them – an “adorable god”.

“The tram car beats traffic jam and reaches with passengers on time. For us, when you save time you have saved lot of things. Since its introduction few years ago, I hardly used other means of transport here in Wuhan. This is a very busy city with lots of people and cars and the only way to fast track your movement is by using the tram cars,” Su Mei continues.

The tram cars have so much comfort that no passenger would want to miss them. It has decent chairs, suitable for persons with disability, the aged, lactating mothers, pregnant women, children and even non-disabled persons. They also have rails at the centre in case any passenger may want to stand while they are in motion.

The advent of this means of transportation was a calculated effort by the Wuhan Municipal Government, through the Chinese central government, to ease the problems associated with the fast movement of people from the intense traffic jams.

“It all started in 2012 when the Wuhan Municipal Government put forward the idea of having tram cars. The Chinese central government spent 7.2 billion Chinese Yuan to manufactured one tram car,” said Wang Tao, General Manager of Optics Valley Operation Company, a state-owned enterprise that manages the tram cars in Wuhan city.

That amount, 7.2 billion RMB, is over one billion United Stated Dollars (US$1,130,508,000), and over eight trillion Sierra Leonean Leones (Le8,704,357,200,000).

Wang Tao said the technology used to manufacture the tram cars was the same used to manufacture the high speed train in China.

“Ninety percent of the materials used to manufacture the tram cars were obtained in China and we only imported 10 percent. The facilities in the tram cars are air-conditioning system, electronic destination boards which notify passengers about the various stop-points that the trams are approaching, among other facilities,” Wang Tao disclosed.

To have such technology in any country, there should be an enabling infrastructure. But Wang Tao said there are nine travel lines of 518 kilometres for the tram cars in Wuhan city to ply, and that there are already six tram cars operating in the city.

He noted that passengers can pay for using the tram car through their tram cards or the physical cash, adding that plans are underway for passengers to start paying fares through their Wechat account, a WhatsApp-like software application but more advanced than the latter, which is widely used by people living in China.

Gender sensitivity is highly regarded in the area of recruitment of drivers for the tram cars. In fact, women are always encouraged to learn how to drive the tram car so that they can be gainfully employed.

“We have many female drivers of the tram cars. We also have very strict trainings, which will last for two and a half years, for all people that want to become tram car drivers. At the moment, we have 240 employees working for us,” Wang Tao said.

The tram cars, according to Wang Tao, are powered by electricity and that touching the installed electricity transmission lines for only 20 seconds will enable the tram car to operate for 20 hours.

However, in the entire Hubei province, the tram cars are only operating in Wuhan, the provincial headquarter city, and many passengers, want this means of transportation to be replicated in rural areas.

Su Mei, who affirms her admiration for the tram cars by saying that she likes travelling with them, said she hopes the technology would be extended to rural areas so as to fast track people’s movement.

But Wang Tao revealed that tram cars are used in Wuhan for now despite them being in use in 14 cities in China and passengers are in love with them.

Unlike many other means of transportation that ply on 24-hour basis, Wang Tao said the tram cars only operate from 6:30 in the morning and park at 10:30 at night. Reasons for this he did not advance but passengers said many people would have gone to bed at that time and the traffic jams would have been lessened.

Wang Tao, General Manager of Optics Valley Operation Company (left) explaining through an English interpreter while on board one of the tram cars
Journalists and passengers just embarking from a trip with a tram car at one of the stations