Metrolab will be based in new offices in Paris and will initially be
staffed by a team of 15 engineers drawn from RATP and Alstom. Mr
François Jasmin of RATP and Mr Didier Valiere from Alstom have been
appointed general directors. The chairman of board will rotate, with Mr
Marc Chatelard of Alstom taking the helm initially followed by Mr Yves
Ramette of RATP.

The two partners will fund Metrolab jointly
although they would not reveal the total investment needed. "It will
require a few dozens of millions of investment," says Mr Philippe
Mellier, president of Alstom Transport. "There is a very promising
future as many cities are looking for solutions to their transport
problems. One in five metros around the world is more than five years
old, so there is a lot of rehabilitation work."

"The annual growth
in demand for automated metros worldwide is 5% and potentially 10%,"
says Mr Pierre Mongin, chairman of RATP, Mellier estimates the world
market to be €13bn between 2011 and 2013.

"Metro systems are
becoming very complex both technically and operationally," explains
Mellier. "We are no longer talking about operation and manufacturing
separately, but as a total system. For example, we have ideas for the
next generation of signalling." Mellier also emphasised the need to
integrate signalling on the trains as well as on the track. "The
development of new systems is now so complicated that we need an
operator to work with us on this project and to give us a competitive
edge. It will be a platform with common tools for operating and
maintenance, but the diversity will be in the rolling stock."

main challenge is to solve capacity problems during peak hours," says
Mongin. "Service quality depends on having sufficient capacity and
stable operation. We must reduce the gap between trains, but it is
virtually impossible to achieve this with existing trains and
signalling. We need to address the optimum size for stations as the
infrastructure largely determines the capacity, and we must plan for
the next 100 years. We also have to look at ways of saving energy. On
Paris Line 14 (which is fully automated) we have reduced energy
consumption by 10% by fine tuning the system."

Mellier says that
Alstom has been able to reduce energy consumption by up to 40% in
Mexico City by fitting new traction equipment as part of a train
refurbishment project.

Mongin faces a new challenge in Paris as RATP
no longer has a monopoly on the construction of new lines. This means
there is no guarantee that RATP and Alstom will be able to use the new
technology in Paris as all tenders must be open to competition, which
partly explains why RATP is looking further afield.