Today's news headlines covering the shootings in Utrecht are of particular concern given this latest murderous rampage took place on or at a tram travelling to Neuwegein in The Netherlands. Some years back I worked closely with a Dutch client in that town and became very familiar with what (at that time) was a new light rail operation linking the university town of Utrecht with a burgeoning business centre.
Trams are very much part of life in European towns and cities - and thus a familiar and comfortable feature of urban travel. Much like the double deck bus is in British towns and cities. Trams are an exceptional feature in the UK since their national demise which accelerated after the end of World War Two.
When buses and trams do make the front page headlines, it is almost always because of some tragic incident. The terrible event in Croydon being a glaring example. Likewise the tram smash in Lisbon earlier this year when a runaway car ended up being more or less destroyed off the rails. Many years ago a Munich tram set became victim to an awful event in which an American plane crashed in a busy street with great loss of life. Fortunately the Blackpool system has avoided such disasters although fatalities are an inevitable feature of rail operation despite best efforts to mitigate against human misjudgement or vehicular failure (as in Lisbon).
The events in The Netherlands today are especially tragic given the fact that at least one passenger on the tram was killed from bullets fired from the street, and others injured. Utrecht is one of many towns in that country benefitting greatly from tram services and well planned transport systems. That it should be brought to the forefront of news media in this manner is deeply troubling. Christchurch, New Zealand similarly has just endured its own Calvary with an even more harmful event only a few days ago. No doubt our minds will be further signposted to other communities having to bear yet a further murderous attack by mindless individuals now far too prevalent, in part as a result of the global network of instantaneous 'social' media - so called.
Will this end - I doubt it.
Dutch trams in much better times. The Hague with its unique American style PCC cars operating as a triple set on the final day in service of these very distinctive trams. Image : John Woodman