FRANCE has experienced something of a light rail renaissance over the last quarter of a century and 17 cities have inaugurated modern tram networks since 2000. Paris was an early adopter of LRT, and since the opening of the first line in 1992 the network has expanded steadily over the last 23 years to nearly 100km (excluding the 12km Line T6, which uses the Translohr rubber-tyred system).
With pressure on the public finances and the abandonment of the planned Ecotax, which would have raised revenues to finance investment in sustainable public transport, France's light rail boom appears to have peaked. However, in the capital and the surrounding Ile-de-France region, the rolling programme of construction that has enabled the network to grow so rapidly looks set to continue with a string of new lines and extensions advancing through the planning process.
Ile-de-France public transport authority Stif and the Department of Hauts-de-Seine have recently concluded a public inquiry into plans for the 6.4km western extension of Line T1 from its current terminus at Les Courtilles in Asnières to the district of Colombes.
The 10-station extension will link Asnières Gennevilliers Les Courtilles metro station on Line 13 with Le Stade station on Transilien and an interchange with Line T2 at Parc Pierre Lagravère on the south bank of the River Seine before terminating at Gabriel Péri.
The first phase from Les Courtilles to Quatre Routes is due to open at the end of 2018 and construction will begin on the second phase in 2020, with trams expected to reach Gabriel Péri by 2023.
The extension is forecast to carry around 60,000 passengers per day when both phases are completed with a journey time of around 20 minutes between Les Courtilles and Parc Pierre Lagravère. Services will operate at four-minute headways during the peak with trams running at 10-minute intervals at other times.
The project is expected to cost €225m with a further €42m for rolling stock, and funding will come from the French government, the region of Ile-de-France, Stif, and the Hauts-de-Seine government.
At the eastern end of Line T1, construction is also due to begin soon on a 7.7km eastern extension from Noisy-le-Sec to Montreuil and the RER station at Val-de-Fontenay. The €400m project is due to be completed in 2017, and around 50,300 passengers per day are expected to use the extension, which will include interchanges with Grand Paris Express metro Line 15 at Pont de Bondy and Val-de-Fontenay as well as the Tram Express North tram-train line at Noisy-le-Sec.
Services will operate at four-minute intervals during the peak and six-minutes off-peak with a 35-minute journey time between Noisy-le-Sec and Val-de-Fontenay.
The Ile-de-France regional government has provided €22m for studies into the €450m project, which is due to be completed in 2017. Stif will finance the additional rolling stock required for the 15-station extension, an estimated investment of around €78.5m.
Construction is expected to begin within the next few months on the next phase of the city's orbital tram line, which will extend Line T3b 4.3km from its current terminus at Porte de la Chapelle west to Porte d'Asnières. The extension will have eight stations, including interchanges with metro Line 4 at Porte de Clignancourt, Line 13 at Porte de Saint-Ouen and the northern extension of Line 14 at Porte de Clichy. The total budget for infrastructure is €193m, and Stif will provide a further €47m for the acquisition of 13 LRVs to supplement the existing Line T3 fleet.
The extension is due to open in December 2017 and is forecast to carry around 76,000 passengers per day.
In February the board of Stif allocated €3m for studies on a further two-station extension from Porte d'Asnières to Porte Maillot station on Metro Line 1 and RER lines C and E. This study will be the basis for an initial public consultation on this project.
Utility diversion works began in the eastern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois in January in preparation for the start of civil works on the €261.5m extension of Line T4 from Gargan to Montfermeil. The project involves constructing a 6.5km branch off the initial Aulnay-sous-Bois - Bondy section of T4 from a junction at Gargan. The branch will have 11 stations, including an interchange with the future Grand Paris Express metro Line 16 at Clichy-Montfermeil. Daily ridership is forecast to be around 37,000, and around 30% of journeys will be through trips from Line 16. Commissioning is scheduled for 2017.
Less than two weeks after the start of public services on the initial 11.2km Villejuif/Louis-Aragon - Athis-Mons Porte de l'Essonne phase of Line T7 in November 2013, the department of Essonne granted public utility status to the 3.7km southern extension from Athis-Mons to Juvisy-sur-Orge. The six-station extension was approved by Stif in February and construction is expected to begin later this year with completion scheduled for 2018.
The extension will terminate at a new public transport interchange outside the RER station in Juvisy, which is served by RER lines C and D. Ridership is projected to be around 48,000 passengers per day.
The project is estimated to cost €198m including rolling stock with funding coming from the French government, Stif, the department of Essonne, and the regional governments of Ile-de-France and Paris. Stif will finance the acquisition of 12 additional LRVs at a cost of €33m.
In addition to these extensions, two completely new lines are planned. Line T9 was granted public utility status in February and detailed design is underway with the aim of beginning construction next year.
The 10km line will run south from an interchange with metro Line 7 and light rail line T3 at Porte de Choisy, serving six districts including Vitry sur Seine, Choisy-le-Roi, Thais, and Orly. The line will have 19 stations, including an interchange with the future Grand Paris express metro Line 15 at Hotel de Ville de Vitry.
Currently around 57,000 passengers per day use bus route 183 from Porte de Choisy to Orly Airport, which is deemed to have reached its capacity limit. The light rail line is expected to carry 70,000- 80,000 passengers per day with services operating at 4-5 minute intervals at peak times and offering a 30-minute journey time between the two termini.
The €359m project will be funded by the French government, the region of Ile-de-France, and the department of Val-de-Marne. The fleet of LRVs required for the line will be funded separately by Stif at an estimated cost of €71.5m.
Line T9 is due to be commissioned in 2020.
The 8.2km, 14-station Line T10 will be an L-shaped line running from Place du Garde in Clamart, via Béclère Hospital to La Croix de Berny on RER Line B south of Paris.
The board of Stif has adopted in-principle proposals for the project, which has a pricetag of €351m plus €42m for rolling stock. Hauts du Seine will now set dates for a public inquiry, which will be completed by next year. Stif has also approved €8m for detailed studies and €6m for land acquisition. Construction is due to begin in 2017 and the line will open in 2020-21.
In April Transamo, acting as an agent for Stif issued a call for tender for the supply of LRV fleets for the new light rail lines T9 and T10 in southern Paris. Closing date for bids was May 4.
Initially a batch of 22 LRVs will be required for Line T9 with an option for a further 18 vehicles. The framework contract will also include options for an initial batch of 13 LRVs for the first phase of Line T10.
Tram-train also features prominently in Ile-de-France's rail programme, with three projects underway or planned which will knit together existing urban rail lines in the Parisian suburbs. Tram Express North will connect Sartrouville in the northwest of the city with Noisy-le-Sec in the east, interchanging with five RER lines and three lines of the Grand Paris Express metro, as well as the suburban and light rail networks.
The €491m central section between Épinay-sur-Seine and Le Bourget will open in 2017 and tram-trains will operate at up to 100km/h, offering a journey time of 15 minutes.
€48.8m has been allocated for studies and land acquisition on Phase 2, with 70% of the funding coming from the Ile-de-France regional government and the remainder from the French state. Phase 2 is due to be commissioned in 2023.
The 28km line will have 14 stations and initial morning peak ridership is forecast to be around 9600, rising to 29,800 when both phases are operational.
Last June Stif authorised the acquisition of 15 Alstom Citadis Dualis tram-trains for the initial phase of the project. The €88m order is being entirely funded by Stif.
The 29km Tram Express West will link Saint Cyr with Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Achères Ville with 18 stations. Construction will begin this year and Phase 1 from Saint Cyr RER to Saint-Germain-en-Laye RER will be completed in 2018, with the northern section of the line to Poissy and Achères Ville RER due to open the following year.
The total cost of infrastructure for the project is estimated at €220m, €103m of which is for Phase 1, with funding coming from the French state, the regional government, and the department of Yvelines. In addition, Stif will provide €43m for rolling stock for Phase 1 and €45m for Phase 2.
The first 20km phase of Tram Express South will connect Massy Palaiseau on RER lines B and C with Épinay-sur-Orge on RER Line C and Évry-Courcouronnes on Line D, serving 16 stations in the department of Essonne. The €436m project is due to be completed in late 2018 and Stif will contribute a further €90m to fund the acquisition of tram-trains. Phase 2 will extend the line 14.6km west from Massy-Palaiseau to Versailles Chantiers after 2020 at a cost of €87.5m, including €43m for additional tram-trains. According to Stif, initial ridership is forecast to be 40,000 passengers per day on Phase 1 and 30,000 per day on Phase 2.
With this ambitious programme, Paris will be the focus for light rail development in France over the next decade. The city and the broader region look set to continue to benefit from the economies of scale brought by a rolling programme of construction with broad political support at all levels of government, which is delivering sustainable mass transit in and around the capital.