Friday, 27 April 2012

Boris Blunder or Brilliant Bonus [3]

L'automatisation intégrale de la ligne 1
Following on from the success of the new metro line 14 in Paris, it was decided to convert the very busy line 1 to automatic operation.
In November 1898, Paris decided to undertake preliminary construction of a metro network with the building of the first line of the Parisian subway system. Work lasted twenty months under the leadership of engineer Fulgence Bienvenüe ...
... and was financed by the municipality of Paris. The line was divided into eight parts distributed between several companies and built on the "cut and cover" principal.
On 19 July 1900, the line was opened between Porte Maillot and Porte de Vincennes to connect the various sites of the World Fair.
The full line was opened soon after; here is a train pictured in 1908.
Today, it is the most utilised subway line on the network with over 725,000 people per day on average.
In the West, the line terminates at the spectacular Grande Arche de la Défense.
It is very hard to grasp the size of this magnificent block of exhibition rooms, offices etc. Even inside (fbb has visited) the size is difficult to gauge. Here are people on the steps leading up to the canopied area just visible in the shot above.
Rebuilding pour "l'automatisation intégrale", which commenced in 2007 and was completed in 2011, included new rolling stock, the MP05 units, and laying of platform edge doors in all stations.
This has been done mostly whilst the line has remained in operation.

This from the RATP web site:-

"Each platform screen consists of 18 door modules. Each night, teams install two modules, which will be operational when service resumes the next day.
During this period, it is important to be vigilant and not to lean over the tracks at stations where renovation work is in progress. It is also essential to observe the new rules to ensure that the platform edge doors system works as smoothly and efficiently as possible."

Some stations have been closed for longer periods to install doors, but automatic trains have been operating alongside "normal" rolling stock until all the new units have been delivered.
As with line 14, look, no cab and no driver!
And some in pretty colours as well.

Trains on line 1 run about every 1 minute 50 seconds at peak times, carrying 220 million passengers annually, and there are 25 stations. By comparison, London's most intensively used line, the Victoria, carries 183 million passengers annually and has 16 stations; trains run every 2 minutes at peak times.

So the key question is:- if it can be done in Paris, on an existing line while trains continue to run, why can't it be done in London? Indeed, why wasn't it done since 1969 when the autumatic Victoria line opened? Why does it need to take so long over here?
And for those unfamiliar with the excellent Paris Metro (which is busy even on Christmas Day!), the MP05 trains run on rubber tyres and are sleekly and spookily quiet.
Political posturing or potentially practical proposal?
Boris, Christian Wolmar and Bob Crow should all have a chummy weekend away in Paris and see how a really busy underground network can be run; without drivers! See Boris Blunder or Brilliant Bonus [1] (read again). But, there is a snag. It is all a much much more expensive combination of local tax, national tax and fares than in London.
The cost of converting line 1 to automatic was projected as 100 million euros. That figure does NOT include the new trains which are costing about 480 million euros although the existing Line 1 stock will be redeployed elsewhere so complex accountancy applies. Full automatic and driverless operation is due at the end of 2012.
4th Nov 2011 : 8 units in service 0630 to 2000
January 2012 : 16 units : late evening fully automatic
Spring 2012 : 28 units : full weekend service automatic

As is no often the case in modern transport policy, you pays your money and you makes your choice!
 Next : Saturday 28th April 


  1. It's not only attitudes to finance that vary across the Channel - it's the attitude to risk too.

    Most of Europe still seems to cope with the idea that people have to take some personal responsibility. RATP has issued a warning you "not to lean over the tracks" so if you do, it's your fault. In the UK, it is now the operator's fault, for creating a situation where people can do this....

  2. Perhaps they should get RATP to run the underground!

  3. The French have always been more than willing to ignore EEC directives if it suits them. Cheese on open stalls in the sun. Walkways across railway tracks etc. etc. Level crossing with nothing but a road sign. Maybe it does make Les Français more responsible.
    I missed a ferry last week because the bus driver was in a queue to get on his stand and wouldn't let me off in case I fell over. But I could fall over just as easily at the stand"

  4. Starting March 2008 lines 2 and 3 of the U-Bahn in Nuremberg/Germany have been converted to automatic operation. From 2008 to 2011 the service was shared between conventional and automatic trains.

    There are no platform doors. This resulted in one fatal accident (which could not have been prevented by a driver either).

    However there is one service staff member for each set of three or four stations to respond to customer questions and to check/restart failed parts of the systems. Since they also need additional technicans for operating the computer systems I doubt there is much saving in staff costs.

    In the afternoon rush hour there are 18 trains/hour on both lines. This often results in "subway jams" in and before the common section.