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"French Metro and Tramway Systems" by Graham Jellett - Friday 27 January 2006

France now has more than double the number of urban public metros and tramways than the UK, (excluding airport systems and tourist tramways). CILT Tyne Tees Group Honorary Treasurer Graham Jellett, FCILT has travelled on almost the entire route network of the twenty one tracked urban public transport systems operating in France. The systems comprise six metros, thirteen conventional tramways and two rubber tyred central rail guided "tramways".

The six metros are in Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Rennes and Toulouse. "Second generation" tramways operate in Nantes, Grenoble, Paris North East, Strasbourg, Rouen, Paris South West, Montpellier, Orleans, Lyon and Bordeaux. There are 19th century tramways in Lille, Marseille and St.Etienne. Those in Lille and St. Etienne have been completely modernised while the Marseille tramway is not currently running while being modernised. Rubber tyred tramways operate in Nancy and Caen, which will soon be joined by Clermont Ferrard.

With slides showing metrocars and trams in use on all systems, (excluding the Paris Metro), Graham described a number of features of these systems. Public funding of the systems and financial considerations were also discussed. Of particular technical interest are driverless metros operating in Lille since 1983, in Lyon, where the driverless line opened in 1992; in Toulouse opened in 1993; and in Rennes opened in 2002, all of which had no onboard or station staff. All of the systems have their own websites, but in some places recent security considerations has constrained Graham's photography - however no instance was known of any tramway having been damaged in the civil unrest that swept France late last year.

Third rail used in central Bordeaux to avoid the visual intrusion of overhead wires came in at three times the cost. Nine systems have grassed track to blend their appearance into the townscape. Some have platform-edge doors similar to those on the Jubilee Line Extension. The Paris South West tram line is a converted mainline railway. New systems under construction include those in Nice, Le Mans, Valenciennes and Clermont Ferrand and Mulhouse, the last of which will be a train-tram network similar to Karslruhe. The total value of the ten French schemes now under construction has been estimated at 3,906 million euros - contrast that happy state of affairs with Britain, where the only scheme to survive the recent purge of South Hampshire, Leeds and Liverpool is Edinburgh, which has just been trimmed to basically one line (but the operator will incidentally be French company Transdev).

The Scottish Region would like to thank Light Rail Transit Association Edinburgh Area Officer George Murray for hosting and chairing this joint event.

Report by John Yellowlees.


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