Trams keep going despite the floods

Trams keep going despite the floods

Tunisia. What a fascinating country it is.

I only scratched the surface having spent a mere two nights in Tunis, the capital back in November 2012. There’s a quiet confidence that underlies the population of the city and,although I say it as someone who doesn’t speak Arabic and therefore can’t detect any dissent or negative feelings, there seems to be a certain optimism too. And certainly from the people I spoke with during my stay. And dare I say it, but there’s still a revolution going on. People are expressing themselves in a number if different ways.

I’ll state some examples to illustrate. The young lady at the bar I happened to visit; sitting alone but confident in herself, drinking a glass of lager. Remember, this is still essentially a Muslim country.

The two young guys walking arm in arm. I don’t know, and I couldn’t tell, but I was told by, Issam, a friend I met, that they were gay. And remember, this is still a fairly conservative country.

And then there’s Hammed, the taxi driver that took me to the airport this evening. He was delighted to put on a music video on his dashboard video player and play the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Michael jackson and ‘dance’ with his hands (yes I know, luckily the traffic was slow moving as it wound have been very nerve-wracking). A fairly surreal experience but  strangely enjoyable nonetheless.

Ben Ali the former dictator has gone after 23 years of iron rule. The people are expressing themselves in ways that would never have previously been allowed.

Locals are not allowed to drink alcohol outside. Tourists will be served but it is an offence to serve residents. Again, one of those quirks. It may or may not change. There are pressures from conservative parts to curtail certain gained freedoms. I was shown some posters on tram stop shelters extolling the virtues of a certain type of conservatism.

There is, in any case, freedom of debate in parliament. And I have left Tunis after this briefest of visits with a positive feeling and a genuine feeling of being made welcome by the many people I met whether they be in the bars, my hotel (Ibis, which I can definitely recommend), metro ticket office staff, taxi drivers, or residents. And I also have an optimism for their future.

Today, my first full day in Tunis, has been a mixed bag of weather. Started dry, then it poured with rain, very heavy at times, thunder and lightening eventually clearing with some blue skies.

I hadn’t brought any wet weather gear with me. I had packed two coats as it was cold leaving the UK and it was going to be cold on my return.

Last night there were some really heavy rain showers and thunderstorms and the roads around my hotel were flooded.

Last night there were some really heavy rain showers and thunderstorms and the roads around my hotel were flooded.

The morning spent catching up on emails and some reading hoping that the weather would clear up enough that I could get out and do a bit more research.
As it happened the clouds blew away and I could risk getting out without getting drowned. As you’ll see in the accompanying photos and videos, parts of the city of Tunis have themselves become drowned.
Tunis city street flooded after the previous night storms

Tunis city street flooded after the previous night storms

Now I head off towards the Marine station. I want to check out the tram and railway stations and see how close they are to each other. As there is some blue sky around I vote to walk along the main road, i.e. without shelter to get there quicker. Making good progress and I come across the tram line which I know terminates at the Marine station. The flood waters had subsided by this morning but at the cross junction where the tramlines cross the main road there is a flooded section.
Tram on route 3 in a flooded section making its way slowly through the water

I see a tram gingerly making its way through the flooded section. Water and electricity don’t generally mix too well but as this system is 750 volts D.C. it looks like they’re happy to keep going. Tram on route 3.

close-up of the flooded tracks with the wake clearly visible as the wheels displace the water

close-up of the flooded tracks with the wake clearly visible as the wheels displace the water

That’s a good spirit. Keeping the job running even when it’s not ideal conditions. Obviously safety comes first and if those conditions are met and the job can keep going then public service is a virtue.
Turning left and heading along the footpath towards the Marine station. It soon becomes clear that walking along the footpath I’m going to get wet feet. I get so far doing that only to find there’s more flooding. Now all that’s left to do is pick my way along the parts of the footpath that are above the waterline.
Tram departing from Tunis Marine station. The kerb on the right is the only way of passing this flooded section. The station is around the corner to the left of view

Tram departing from Tunis Marine station. The kerb on the right is the only way of passing this flooded section. The station is around the corner to the left of view

Having managed that without getting my feet wet and turning the corner, I can see the tram station. Looks like it lives up to its name having been partially flooded!
Tram all set for departure. They are really keen on keeping the job going here in this city

Tram all set for departure. They are really keen on keeping the job going here in this city

There’s another tram all set for departure so I’ll make a video record of that. It looks really deep and I’m surprised they’re running a service. Even the low voltage that it is, the water can still play havoc with the motors and other electrics.
Having made the video of the tram I make my way along the platform to see where the other line of interest is located.
Tunis Marine platforms. The Local TGM line station is behind this station

Tunis Marine platforms. The Local TGM line station is behind this station

TGM line platform with train in flooded track section.

TGM line train. The track in the platforms are also flooded, again, quite deeply. But services are running nevertheless.

The TGM line goes to Marsa Plage and cuts a path right through Tunis lake. There isn’t time in this trip to discover the delights of this or it’s destination. That’s for another time.
Back into the city now to complete this initial research…

Men at work

Tunis-close-up of-point-motor-housing

A life expired point motor and housing being replaced

Tunis-workmen-changing-point-motor

Street-level equipment can get damaged easily with general deposits of grit and muck getting into the works

Tunis-workmen-changing-point-motor-street-view

Point motors are useful pieces of equipment that saves the tram operators from having to get down from their driving cabs and manually change the points over. A switch in the cab activates the motor remotely.

Tunis-workmen-changing-point-motor-inspecting

The guys appear to be making progress

Tunis-workmen-changing-point-motor-close-up

Deliberating on the best way to accomplish the task

Tunis-workmen-changing-point-motor-close-up-view

The new motor has been lowered into position and the various connections being made. Job almost done.

 Continuing with the expedition I come across this rather attractive building
Tunis-colonial-apartments

Possibly colonial style

Further along I spot a tram stop. No name attached to this one and is one of the failings of so many systems I have come across. Knowing where to get on or off is an essential part of navigating, and we will see later, there is a route diagram inside the tram carriages with the stops named!

Tram stop with shelter. Presumably the yellow oblong above the roof was where the name of the stop was previously displayed?

Tram stop with shelter. Presumably the yellow oblong above the roof was where the name of the stop was previously displayed?

A view of the same stop with the street in perspective

A view of the same stop with the street in perspective

These two lovely ladies wanted their photo taken with me.. what can I say? Naturally I obliged being the friendly chap I am.

Two lovely local lasses who wanted a photo with me

Two lovely local lasses who wanted a photo with me

One of the main interchange stations is La Republique shown below in these photos

Tunis-station-La Republique-end-view

View of La Republique station. Passengers appeared to be happy to leave by way of the railway right of way as opposed to the subway

Tunis-station-La Republique-departing-passengers

Passenger masses departing from La Republique station

Tunis-typical-tram-station

Typical Tunis tram station. Note the fairly hefty sized barriers separating the opposite direction tracks in this location

Typical Tunis tram station ticket office

Inside the tram cars there are maps depicting the routes of each line. Note the station names in dual language

Inside the tram cars there are maps depicting the routes of each line. Note the station names in dual language

Funny things..

With the camera at the ready we sometime some across the strangest things. This little fella was wondering around the streets of Tunis looking a little bit sorry for itself. Now I’m no pigeon expert, far from it in fact, so this one appeared to me to be a little bit wanting in the feather department with its little knees-a-knocking.

tunis-strange-skinny-pidgeon

Are those knees really supposed to be that exposed? And is it a pigeon?

Tunis-skinny-pidgeon-with-white-pidgeon

The white pigeon appears to be giving its compatriot a wide berth. Either that or it was wondering what the heck had just flown in alongside it!

Poor little thing really does look sorry. On the one hand I couldn't help but laugh - maybe you will too - it does look very ill at ease.

Poor little thing really does look sad. On the one hand I couldn’t help but laugh – maybe you will too – it does look very ill at ease. On the other hand I did feel sorry for it particularly as the white one seemed to be looking at it in a disdainful way as well.

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