Bochum has potential
Desire for cableways grows stronger
Cableways used to be quite common in the Ruhr area in the past. They were built and used for coal transport. Now people are considering whether the old tradition should be revived. Not to transport coal but to save it—and, especially, to relieve local traffic.
If things went to Volker Steude’s liking, this issue would be quickly resolved. An economist and board member of an independent group of voters “Die Stadtgestalter” (the City Shapers) he has been campaigning for a cableway in Bochum for years. One can read or hear about activities organized by him all the time. This committed politician believes that the university city, with its 50,000 students, urgently needs a new traffic and transport plan to bring an end to the daily chaos in the hopelessly crowded public transport vehicles and streets.
“The idea that a cableway could relieve local traffic struck us already in 2014,” says Steude and continues: “Bochum is not exactly a rich city and its public transport association is not very well developed. Our advantage here is that there is a lot of undeveloped land in the Ruhr area, as well as the city of Bochum, that would be ideally suited for one or even more cableways!”
According to the Stadtgestalter group’s plans, local transport could be optimized with three cableway lines. “As step number one, the Ruhr University would be connected with the planned research campus at the former Opel grounds, to Langendreer, and the city center. Lines leading to the Ruhrpark and the Kemnader See should follow,” explains Steude. In the framework of these considerations, an informative cost comparison for a cableway, tramway and subway has been prepared by the Stadtgestalter.
There are four serious issues
In particular, four great challenges, or even issues, in the south-east of the city had to be taken into account: Issue No. 1, Campus line U35: Increasingly more students use local transport, the trains are totally overcrowded during peak hours. Issue No. 2, the local transport connection to the Hochschule Bochum (University of Applied Sciences): it takes almost 10 minutes on foot to get from the school to the U35-stop.
There are over 7,000 students and 500 staff members; if there was another, closer and faster transport connection for the school, substantially more people would use public transport. Issue No. 3, the Langendreer’s connection to RUB (Ruhr-University Bochum) and the Hochschule: Very few students live in this part of the city due to its bad transport connection.
“Students live in those areas from which they can get to the university quickly, with frequent transport intervals and without having to change lines”, emphasizes Steude. Issue No. 4, the local transport connection to the former Opel grounds where a new Innovation Quartier is to be built: The professors will only set up their research facilities there if they can go back and forth in a maximum of 10 minutes without changing lines.
Only positive reactions so far
Transport issues have been the subject of discussions in Bochum for years but no tangible solution seems to be in sight so far, even though, according to Steude, the popular response has been very good. “We have strongly involved the public in this matter right from the beginning, e.g. via Facebook. Their positive feedback demonstrates that people are interested in a cableway. They already ask when it might be implemented”, says Steude who believes that desire for this innovative transport solution is growing stronger.
New things are initially rejected
This is why, Steude explains, the project is coming along so slowly: “These decisions strongly depend on politicians, and even transport companies. For many people it is difficult to imagine a means of transport that doesn’t have four wheels. This is why any attempt for change is initially rejected.” The results of a cost comparison show that a cableway would be a good solution for Bochum: Extending U35 would not alleviate the problems unless combined also with a project for new buses. Cost: 170 mil. euros (i.e. for the city, around 75 mil. plus an annual cost of approx. 13.7 mil. euros). But this solution wouldn’t provide a transfer-free connection.
As a solution, the cableway is far more attractive: it not only meets all the requirements but scores also with a 30-second-interval and its speed. Cost: 150 mil. euros with financial support from the state. Annual expenses of approx. 3 mil. euros. The transport situation in Bochum could also be improved by developing the existing tramway network but route extensions or even new lines would be necessary.
Cost: approx. 90 mil. euros. With financial support, 9 million would have to be paid by the city treasury. 3.87 mil. would be the annual cost. If one compares these options, explains the Stadtgestalter representative, the U35 plus bus solution is much more expensive than the other two options. Setting up a cableway and developing the tramway network are almost the same in terms of cost.
Although the investment cost of the cableway would be higher, the investment would be compensated in just 7 years thanks to the low annual cost. “It would be nice,” concludes Steude, “if we managed to break the dam here in Bochum with the installation of a cableway in our urban space. I believe that other cities would follow our example, too.” bm
Aged 48, married and father of two daughters. A Bochum resident, he received a doctorate in economics and works as a business consultant. He is politically very active and has been a Bochum city council member since 2014. He is also a co-initiator of the independent group of voters “Die Stadtgestalter”. Steude says: “Bochum has enough potential but it needs to be tapped. Currently, a feasibility study is being prepared by the city. It will surely demonstrate the cableway to be the most advantageous means of transport.”