History of trams in Kraków

Trams not only serve as a convenient and environmentally friendly means of public transport. For the people of Krakow, they are an important part of the city’s culture and history. Almost 123 years have passed since the first run of Krakow’s electric tram, but the origins of public transport go back a little further.

How did it all begin?

The year 1875 is considered the beginning of public transport in Krakow, when the first regular horse-drawn omnibus line was launched. Its route started from under the Main Railway Station and ended at Podgórski Bridge in the Kazimierz district.

The history of the trams themselves begins in November 1881, when the City Council of Krakow, under an agreement concluded with the Belgian Bank, granted permission for the “installation and maintenance of an iron railway called the tramway”. A year later, the first ceremonial run of the narrow-gauge horse-drawn tramway took place, and proceeds from ticket sales were donated to the construction of the Adam Mickiewicz monument.

The first tram crew ran along the route from the railway station to Mostowa Street in Kazimierz, where a tram depot was built. The carriages came in winter and summer versions and were divided into two classes: I and II. By1900, the horse-drawn tramway carried over 1.5 million passengers in Krakow.


Electric trams appeared somewhat later. The commissioning of the first narrow-gauge tram line with a fleet of 17 electric carriages from the Wagon and Machine Factory in Sanok took place in 1901, and the ceremonial opening was performed by the city mayor Józef Friedlein. The success of electrification meant that from 1902 trams in Krakow were already running on 4 lines.

The following years also brought many important changes. As a result of the First World War, a large number of men were mobilised for the front and around 180,000 people left the city. The perceived shortage of workers meant that women also became tram drivers from 1916 onwards. The reconstruction of the tramway infrastructure actively started after the end of the war. First, the tram cars and tracks were repaired. Subsequently, the tram traffic system was changed from left-hand to right-hand traffic, and by 1925 there were already six tram lines in operation.

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Changes in traffic organization on Lublańska Street

Drivers in the northern part of Krakow are facing further temporary changes to traffic organisation. In connection with the ongoing construction of the tram line tunnel to Mistrzejowice, from 24 February closures and narrowing of the carriageway will appear on Lublańska street.

What will change? 

  • On Lublańska street traffic between the Polsad roundabout and the Bareja roundabout will use the western carriageway, which will have one traffic lane for each direction.
  • The eastern carriageway of Lublańska street from the Polsad roundabout to the Barei roundabout will be completely closed to traffic. 
  • Vehicular traffic from and to Bora-Komorowskiego Avenue will be redirected to the temporary intersection with Lublańska Street at the level of the exit from Promienistych Street,
  • The bus stop Olsza II 02 at Lublańska Street will be moved approx. 30 m to the north.

Temporary traffic organisation south of Miechowity Street will remain unchanged (stage 2.2): [link].

Temporary traffic organisation stage 2.2

The new traffic organisation will be introduced on 24 February, starting at 5.00am.  

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Replanting of trees as part of the construction of KST IV

With the completion of tree replanting for the construction of the tram line to Mistrzejowice, it is worth taking a closer look at the process. Here is a brief overview of how the trees were replanted. 

When to report trees?

The best time to replant trees is when they are dormant, i.e. early spring or late autumn and winter, when the temperature outside is positive and the soil is not frozen. During these seasons, trees are dormant, their growth and metabolic activity are limited.

What kind of trees are replanted? 

Due to their greater adaptability, mainly young trees are transplanted. They usually have smaller roots and are less complicated to transport, making the process less stressful for them.

Old trees, due to their extensive root system and longer life span, may prove less resistant to transplanting and are less likely to adapt to their new environment.

According to estimates, the limiting age that gives a prognosis for the adaptation of a transplanted tree is 20-25 years. For older trees, their chances of survival fall below 30 percent.

Replanting trees step by step

  • Assess the health of the tree, its age, size and root characteristics.
  • Reducing the crown – this will allow the plant to focus on re-rooting rather than feeding the shoots and leaves with nutrients.
  • Delineating and digging a trench at the selected target location.
  • Using a transplanting machine to precisely dig up the tree with an eye to minimizing root damage. After digging out the tree with the soil stock, the root ball is secured with a jute bag.
  • Transporting the tree and placing it in the hole dug earlier.
  • Stabilizing the trunk with stakes – this will prevent the tree from falling over.
  • Regular monitoring of the tree’s condition.

As a Private Partner, we replanted 42 trees (their location is marked in red on the map). The remaining 41* trees were replanted by the Urban Greenery Board (3 trees are in the process of replanting). 

*Updated on 25.04.2024: “The Board of Urban Greenery of Krakow informs that to date, 41 pieces of trees have been replanted by the local unit from the KST stage IV investment area. We would like to mention that, in accordance with the arrangements, it is planned to replant another 3 pieces of trees growing at the intersection of Jana Pawła II Avenue, Mogilska Street and Meissnera Street in the autumn of 2024 or spring of 2025.” – explains Katarzyna Chochół.

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BIM technology

The construction of a tunnel as part of the emerging tram line to Mistrzejowice is one of the biggest engineering challenges of the project.  One of the key aspects is the use of BIM technology. What does it involve? We explain.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an advanced method of creating, managing and analysing building project information that contains highly detailed data and covers a wide range of processes. BIM brings together all relevant project information resources (technical, geometric, cost, other) to provide a comprehensive platform.

What it means, or say it “not in engineering terms

BIM is a technology used in the construction industry to help create, manage and analyse information about buildings or infrastructure in a digital and 3D way. Imagine a building is like a jigsaw puzzle, but instead of using cardboard pieces, we use virtual elements that can be moved, rotated and adjusted in any way.

In BIM, each element of a building is modelled in 3D. At the same time, each of these objects has data associated with it, such as materials, dimensions, technical properties or cost information. It is as if we added to each element with a description of what it relates to what it can be used for.

This technology enables collaboration between the various professionals involved in the construction process, such as architects, engineers, plant designers or builders. With BIM, they can work on one common model, which facilitates communication and eliminates errors due to inconsistencies between different documents or drawings.

In addition, BIM allows different scenarios to be simulated and the impact of changes on the entire project to be analysed, helping to make better decisions at each stage of construction. In other words, with BIM we can plan, design and build better, leading to more efficient construction projects.

In PPP projects, the partner is responsible for comprehensive implementation from design to construction to maintenance for a specified number of years. In this case, there is a need for effective communication and data flow between many stakeholders such as the client, designers, administration, operators, managers of individual infrastructure elements, contractors, internal departments of the company, supervision inspectors, subcontractors. 

With access to extensive data, teams from different trades can work on a project simultaneously, seeing changes in real time. BIM technology improves the efficiency of the construction process by reducing the risk of errors and clashes, optimising costs and speeding up project delivery. In the context of the construction of the Tram to Mistrzejowice, the implementation of BIM has become essential to achieve a high level of safety and to run the project to the highest quality standards.

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Construction of Tram to Mistrzejowice kicks off

The first preparatory work for the redevelopment of the technical infrastructure and the construction of the tram route will begin this coming Monday: 3 July.

In the coming weeks, our activities will primarily involve site preparation and the implementation of earthworks related to the redevelopment of underground infrastructure. These works will also involve cutting down trees in areas that interfere with the planned new routes of this infrastructure. Nevertheless, our primary goal is to avoid trees and shrubs that are located in areas where we are analyzing the possibility of making changes. This is aligned with the expectations of residents.

The mayor of Krakow declared on Thursday, 29 June, that within a month final decisions will be made on the possibility of taking into account the demands of residents. Until the answers are published, we will continue our work: avoiding areas that may be subject to adjustments.

At first, we will focus on work on the southeast side of the Polsadu Roundabout, heading towards the Młyńskie Roundabout. Then we will work in the area of Lublańska Street on the eastern side towards the Barei Roundabout, and later from the Barei Roundabout to Mistrzejowice. Finally, work will be carried out from the Młyńskie Roundabout to Jana Pawła II Avenue and in the area of Lublańska Street on the west side due to the consideration of residents’ demands.

Starting Monday, signs will be located along the route of the project: informing of construction works and tree cutting. In connection with the first stage of the temporary traffic organization, there will be local narrowing of road lanes and temporary exclusions of pedestrian and bicycle routes.

Every effort will be made to minimize inconvenience and ensure the safety of residents during the implementation of these works.

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Wizualizacja tramwaju

Tramway to Mistrzejowice with environmental agreements

New plantings, green tracks and stops, revitalization of the terminus: we know what the green development around the tram route to Mistrzejowice will look like. Residents will gain a modern and sustainable means of transportation, providing an alternative to cars.

The tram route to Mistrzejowice project has received a positive opinion from the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection (RDOŚ). This is the last step before obtaining a construction permit, allowing work to begin. – The decision just issued by the RDOŚ as part of a reassessment of the investment’s impact on the environment confirms that it complies with the environmental decision issued and can be implemented without hindrance. Among the issues assessed were those concerning greenery, which is of great importance to the local community,” specifies Krzysztof Dziobek, contract director at Gülermak.

The contractor’s individual approach to each specimen and the personal involvement of the construction management made it possible to preserve nearly 200 trees intended for removal in the original design (including dozens growing along Meissnera Street). Positive changes were initiated by a change order issued by a public entity last May, aimed, among other things, at reducing noise pollution and thus the number of noise barriers. In the end, the tree stand management project submitted to the RDEP indicated that there were 1,059 trees in conflict with the planned infrastructure. Investigations of the phytosanitary condition showed that about 60% of them have defects, such as mechanical damage to the bark, drought, decay, frost foliage, traces of pest feeding or significant deviation from the vertical. Seventy-one young, healthy specimens were selected for replanting. 26 of them are already growing in new locations, while the remaining 45 will be moved to their target sites once construction begins. As much as 10,308 square meters of shrubs, flowerbeds and grasses will be added to the project site, more than 2,000 square meters more than the total area of all shrubs to be removed.

New tree plantings along the tram route to Mistrzejowice

– In accordance with the commitment, for each interfering tree we will plant a new one. Their location has been carefully planned to allow the plants to survive in demanding urban conditions, and in the future to provide shade for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. All the new plantings have been designed along the project, so there is no question of planting trees in unpopulated areas on the outskirts of the city, as contractors are often accused of,” adds Krzysztof Dziobek.

The selected tree species, including common oak and small-leaved linden, are resistant to pollution, drought, frost and salinity, so they will put down roots in the vicinity of the streetcar line for years to come. The trees designed for the stop platforms will be planted using an anti-compression system, which allows the roots to grow freely under the sidewalk. The private partner used a similar technology for the M2 line of the Warsaw subway.

Green revitalization of the terminus, track and stops

In addition, the project provides for green track using sedum mats along a 4.2-kilometer stretch of single track. These do not require watering or mowing, thus saving natural resources. The route will also feature 19 stops with green roofs, with a total area of 1,900 sqm, giving as much as 4,750 liters of water retention per year. Thanks to dense tree planting, the entire Mistrzejowice terminus will undergo a green transformation. Between the alleys there will be dozens of new trees, appropriately selected shrubs and grasses. The Młyńskie Roundabout will be decorated with a composition of maples, roses and ornamental grasses. A flower meadow will appear at the Barei Roundabout, and eight seedlings will be added to the acacia robinia. A rain garden will also be created adjacent to the traffic circle.

Current design sheets showing future land use along the streetcar line to Mistrzejowice are available at www.tramwajdomistrzejowic.pl

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Tramwaj jadący po zielonych torach. Zdjęcie podglądowe

Tramway to Mistrzejowice will run on green trackbed

In recent years, more and more cities are beginning to appreciate the potential of trackbed as a perfect spot to locate additional green areas. The trend is especially popular in cities that are seeking new ways to improve the quality of life of their residents. Kraków is a leader in the greening of tramway routes in Poland. The Tram to Mistrzejowice is yet another project following this pattern.

Many cities are struggling these days with air pollution and facing limited amount of green spaces. One solution to this problem is the so-called green trackbed: green belts running along streets, tramway tracks or expressways. Their main goal is to improve the quality of life for the residents by increasing green urban areas, reducing noise and protecting against air pollution.

Green trackbed are becoming increasingly popular in cities around the world. Kraków has been investing in green initiatives for years and is ahead of other cities in Poland in terms of green tram infrastructure. There are over 28 kilometers of green routes in the city now.  Green tracks have been already introduced for instance on communication routes of 3 Maja Avenue, Kamienna – Prądnicka – Dr. Twardego – Krowodrza Górka, Grzegórzeckie Roundabout – Mały Płaszów and Grota Roweckiego – Czerwone Maki. The planned construction of a new tram route to Mistrzejowice involves an additional 4.2 km of green tracks.

Why is it worth building green tracks?

Green tracks in the city center help to significantly reduce air pollution. Plants absorb harmful substances from the air, such as nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, and produce oxygen. More greenery supports biodiversity and attracts different species of birds and insects.

However, the advantages of this solution are not only about ecology. Green tracks also improve the quality of life for the residents. They perform an insulating function: reduce noise and vibrations emitted by trams to the environment. Green tracks absorb sounds from the surroundings, which means residents face less problems with noise.

Green tracks are crucial for improving the quality of life for residents, so more and more cities around the world are opting for this solution. Often times, these areas are introduced as part of revitalization of post-industrial districts or railway infrastructure. This supports creating new, attractive green spaces in the city center.

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