This post continues a series of reflections on the tramway network in and around Nice which are based on Jose Banaudo’s French language book “Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1: Histoire.” The text below includes elements translated from Jose Banaudo’s book. 
A Changing Urban Network in/around Nice
The 1930s through to the 1950s saw major changes in the urban environment. As elsewhere, the car began to dominate people understanding of progress. Other firms of transport, to a greater or lesser extent, took a secondary place. Independence, rather than interdependence, came to dominate political thinking. Strengthening democracy after the Second World War valued the perspective of the individual. By the end of the 1950s the place if the ‘expert’ in any debate was beginning to be challenged. No longer were people as willing to be told what was best for them. In a significant way, the car became a touchstone for that growing independence and self-confidence. The tram and the train began to be seen as part of the past rather than an important part of the future.
We noted in the last post in this series how buses began to replace trams on the longer routes. Road improvements swept away the tram infrastructure. The rails were replaced, at first, in some places, by trolleybuses. In others the change to petrol/diesel engines vehicles was more rapid.
Banaudo, writing in French, says: “While the tramway disappeared from most interurban lines, the monopoly of this mode of transport was not immediately threatened in the city of Nice. Initially, in 1925-26, TNL had simply created three ‘automobile omnibus’ lines serving routes complementary to the tramway network. These services were designated from 1928 onwards by letters:
A Masséna – St. Sylvestre;
C Masséna – Caucade; and
D Masséna -St. Isidore.
On March 20th of the same year, two new links were created to serve Mont-Boron Hill, to the east of the city:
B1 Masséna – Miramar, and
B2 Masséna – Col de Villefranche.
Their routes were modified several times, only stabilizing in September 1929, the first taking Boulevard Carnot (Basse Corniche) and the second, the Chemin du Mont-Alban (Moyenne Corniche).” [1: p93]
He continues: “The year 1929 was marked by the development of road transport in the city, with the delivery of Renault buses of a Parisian type which were put into service on eight new lines which opened from 19th January to 7th October:
A: Place Masséna – St. Sylvestre, by Boulevard de Cessole;
D1: Place Masséna – Digue-des-Français, by St. Augustin;
E: The PLM Station – Port, via Berlioz, Rossini, du Congrès and Paradis streets;
F: Square Masséna – St. Etienne, by Boulevard Carabacel, Avenues Désambrois and Lambert, Streets Mirabeau, Vernier and Chemin de Pessicart;
G: Square Masséna – Le Ray, by Streets Gubernatis and de Lépante and Avenue St. Lambert;
H : Place Masséna – St. Roch, by Place Garibaldi, Rue Bonaparte and Boulevard de Riquier;
S1: Place Masséna – La Bornala, by Rue de la Buffa;
S3: Rue de l’Hôtel-des-Postes – Rimiez, by Avenue des Arènes.” [1: p93]
After this, there was a lull in the development of bus routes with some routes opening and then closing within short periods of time.
However some routes were set up which survived. Line K: Masséna – Madeleine-Superior was created in February 1932 and in March 1933.
The tramway is eliminated from the centre of Nice
Banaudo says: “All the bus-lines created by the TNL between 1925 and 1933 in the municipality of Nice were established on routes complementary to the main routes travelled by tramways, either by taking streets in the city centre that had previously been left out of the network, by climbing hills that were not suitable for trams, or by opening up suburban districts that were undergoing urbanisation. Operated by limited-capacity buses where the driver issued tickets to passengers, these lines had low frequencies and carried relatively modest traffic.” [1: p95]
Early in the 1930s, following the example of Paris. TNL and the municipality began negotiations to extend the use of buses to a main route, that from Place Massêna along the Avenues of la Victoire, Malaussena and Borriglione. It was envisaged that this move would improve traffic movement and eliminate the need the costly maintenance of an electrical power supply. “On 5th June 1931, the municipal council decided to convert the lines serving St. Maurice, St. Sylvester and the Boulevard Tzarewitch to a bus-service.” [1: p95]
To implement this program, it was necessary to finance the purchase of a further sixty buses. These were ordered from ‘Renault’ and ‘Panhard et Levassor’ from 1933 onwards. The road vehicle fleet reached 144 units by the following year, surpassing the number of motorised trams. In addition, the TNL finally won a number of legal actions against interurban line operators who picked-up and put-down passengers inside the city in direct competition with trams and buses. [1: p95]
Lines were either provided with new termini, as in the case of lines to the West and East of the centre of Nice, or diverted along alternative routes as in the North of the city. Place Massena lost its trams altogether. We now know that this decision was one which came to be regretted by the municipality towards the end of the 20th century as they began to develop plans for a new tram network. [1: p95]
The first stage of this transfer was carried out at the beginning of 1934, with the opening on 3rd January of the new “Gare municipale d’Autobus” on the Couverture du Paillon, between the Casino Municipal and Place Massena. The departures and arrivals of all long-distance lines were moved, to the chagrin of some carriers who were used to using favourable locations for the Place Masséna, Avenue des Phoceens or Place St François. The opening of the new station required police protection, as the most disgruntled entrepreneurs threatened to block the streets of the area with their buses. In the end, everything settled down and passengers got used to the new arrangements. With the end of the tramway programme, the kiosk in Place Masséna was demolished and the head office of the city buses was moved about 200m further east: a new “TNL Station” was built in the shade of plane trees south of the Casino Municipal, along Boulevard des Italiens (now Jean-Jaurès). [1: p95]Monday 8th October 1934 was chosen as the date for the changes to take place. On the Sunday evening, the trams ran for the last time on Place Masséna and the south-north axis through the Avenues de la Victoire, Malaussena, Borriglione, du Ray and St Sylvestre, as well as in Joseph-Garnier Boulevard, Tzaréwitch Boulevard and on the left bank of the Paillon, between Place Masséna and Place Garibaldi. The next day, the network was completely reorganized, creating thirteen tram lines (including those of Contes and La Grave, the last vestiges of the departmental network) and twenty-two city bus lines. A new pricing system based on tickets sold in booklets came into effect. [1: p95]
There were initial problems. Users were disrupted by changes in numbering and new tram routes. The buses were considered noisy. polluting and at certain times their capacity was notoriously insufficient compared to that of the old trams and their trailers. The Nice daily newspaper “L’Eclaireur”, which from the beginning had unreservedly encouraged change, began to doubt whether it had been worthwhile. [1: p95]
The staff complement was reduced by a further 27 employees. This triggered a strike that lasted from 13th to 26th October. In addition to the teething problems on the bus network, the trams were hit by bad weather. On 1st November 1934, the overhead line of the No. 34 Masséna – St. André line was seriously damaged and the service was replaced by buses. On the Contes line, a landslide cut the track between the cement plant and the terminus and traffic did not resume until March 1935. [1: p95]
My understanding of Banaudo’s comments is that the changes were hastily brought in so as to satisfy a variety of different political agendas. Hindsight suggests that the conurbation would have been better served by renovating/refurbishing its tramways rather than allowing them to fall into disrepair and be replaced by what ultimately has proved to be a poorer series of alternatives.
- Jose Banaudo; Nice au fil due Tram Volume 1: l’Histoire; Les Editions de Cabri, 2004.
- https://www.fortunapost.com/06-alpes-maritimes/2100-carte-postale-ancienne-06-nice-tramway-place-massena-1913-carte-toilee.html, accessed on 14th October 2019.
- https://www.geneanet.org/cartes-postales/view/5938209#0, accessed on 14th October 2019.
- https://www.geneanet.org/cartes-postales/view/7404985#0, accessed on 14th October 2019.
- http://www.retro-photo.fr/cartes-postales-anciennes/cpa,illustrateurs,nice–41-avenue-de-la-victoire-tramway–signee-beraud-,8390.html, accessed on 14th October 2019.