Munich's new tram bell upsets traditionalists

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Munich's new tram bell upsets traditionalists
An older-model Munich tram equipped with a real bell. Photo: DPA

On the busy streets of central Munich, where the distinction between foot zone and tram line is often rather fluid, tram drivers sound a bell reminding pedestrians it would be in their best interest to move out of the way. But a high-tech new system has set alarm bells ringing among public transport purists.


Most visitors to Munich will be familiar with the experience of wandering around the streets surrounding Marienpatz, taking in the ornate architecture and luxury shopping opportunities, when suddenly a bell rings behind them.

It is a tram reminding them that they are not in a medieval theme park, but a functioning, modern city.

Locals have for decades been happy to accept the rules of this tussle between man and machine.

But the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday that a recent development in the technology used in the alarm system has caused upset amongst fans of Munich's tram system.

In autumn of last year a new fleet of trams called "Avenio" went into operation, at a reported cost of €29 million to the Munich Transport Company (MVG).

The trams were built by Siemens, who, for the first time, designed them with an electronic alarm rather than a real bell.

In the Avenio, when the driver wants to warn pedestrians of his presence, he presses a foot pedal and activates a pre-recorded sound.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung compares the new alarm to a death rattle, saying that it lacks the "rich ring" of the old system.

Many fans of public transport are reported to be dissatisfied, complaining that the new sound is too artificial.

Older tram models have an actual bell built into them which produces the authentic ring whenever it is set off.

In the P-Type, which first hit the streets of Munich in the 1970s, air pressure was used to strike a clapper against the bell. At the end of the 1990s The R-Car was introduced; air pressure was replaced by electronic activation, but the principle of striking an actual bell still stood.

Now, though, the alarm is simply a pre-recorded sound from the hard drive of a Siemens computer.

However, that the new technology is going to cause widespread disquiet in the relaxed southern city is up for question.

A spokesperson for MVG reassured the Local "We have not received any complaints regarding the new alarm system."


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