If you go down to the Nice Port today you’re in for a big surprise. In autumn 2014 tramway engineering teams moved into the historic streets around rue Ségurane. They’ll stay for 18 months, which is pain for local residents (me included). But fear not. It’s going to be awesome.
By late 2017, the East-West Tramway, Nice’s second tramline, will link France’s fifth largest city to the country’s second busiest airport (after Paris). The 11km route will connect the quays of Nice-Port with the runways offer Nice Airport in 26 minutes flat. Or quicker if you reside along one of the 18 other stops like place Garibaldi, place Wilson or avenue Victor Hugo.
The benefits are manifold. When the tram is completed two-thirds of Nice residents will live within walking distance of Tramways 1 and 2. So will 85% of hotels – and you can include holiday rental apartments in that figure. City traffic is scheduled to drop by 5%. Some 2,400 trees will be planted. Any every local engineer and electrician is guaranteed employment for several years.
A win-win surely?
There are downsides. Believe me. I lived through the building of Tramway 1 from 2003-2007, so let me tell you about them.
Firstly, a little bird in the city planning department tells us to expect project delivery in early 2018. But that’s not too bad. Tramway 1 annoyed Nice locals with its overambitious targets. It was supposed to take two years – but took four. But this time deadlines seem far more realistic.
Secondly, they will be a lot of mess. On my front door. A 3.5km-long tunnel will pass from Nice-Port to avenue Victor Hugo under the city streets. Yet again, this will not have the commercial impact that Tramway 1 had when avenue Jean-Médécin was shut down for several months. Residents, not tourists or businesses, will feel the pain.
The important question is what should people bear in mind when buying property in Nice? Three points.
Number 1. The biggest leaps in Nice property prices (around 10% a year) occurred during 2005 and 2006. That’s when work on Tramway 1 was at its peak and a finished product could more or less be envisioned.
Number 2. Look out for extensions. Rumour has it that the East-West Tramway will reach Riqueur SNCF train station a few years later, connecting nicely with rail services east to Monaco and Menton. An extension is already scheduled from Nice Airport to the seaside town of Cagnes-sur-Mer.
Number 3. Niçois love a good tram. Their horse-drawn urban rail service started in 1879. It was electrified in 1900. By 1930, 183 tramcars plied the through the transport hub of place Massena. But by the 1940s war damage and rivalry with petrol-driven transport put them out of business. Locals look back on them with nostalgia. We’ll all welcome their return.