Monday, July 02, 2012

Brest moves forward

I've been in Brest on and off lately. It's a time of change, which has involved considerable upheaval for drivers over the last few years. A new tramway with 27 stations has been installed to connect workers' residential areas to the east and west with the centre. The route will also cut down a bit of walking for tourists visiting both sides of the Penfeld river.
There's been a certain amount of urgency to finish the elaborate project before the International Maritime festival this summer. This huge event brings thousands of boats and tens of thousands of visitors to the city. I'm doing a piece for the Independent, so will have a chance to see first-hand how the system copes under the strain. When I contacted the tramway press officer a few months ago to ask about journey costs for a guidebook update, he couldn't tell me. Strange, as I discovered the ticket prices had already been published on the internet. Hope someone has told him by now.
Part of the system is operational. Only this week one of the smart new trams hit a car and was derailed, fortunately without injuries to anyone. In the west near the British mecca that is IKEA the new tracks are already surrounded by a lavish display of weeds, as if no-one thought to put a membrane down or, more likely, lay in a stockpile of Roundup.
But I have to say that there was noticeably less traffic around in the central areas when I was there last week. Could it all actually be a good thing? Let's hope so. After all, as old photos in the endearing Tour Tanguy (left in the picture) town history museum show, they only took the old tram line out in the 1970s.

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