Ahead of the Transports Publics 2018 show in June, we toured exciting innovations in host city Paris


A bus parks itself at Lagny bus depot
Île-de-France – the “Parisian Region” – covers only 2.2% of mainland France, but its 12 million inhabitants represent almost a fifth of the population.

It is therefore a region with some big transport challenges – and RATP Group, Île-de-France’s multi-modal public transport operator, is always seeking to respond with big ideas.

More than four billion journeys are made by public transport in Île-de-France every year, of which three-quarters are with RATP – but the challenge is always to carry more! As a guest of RATP in Paris last week, Passenger Transport witnessed some of the innovations which could help achieve this.

Diesel is disappearing

We began our tour by boarding a French-built Bolloré full size single deck electric bus at Gare du Nord station. This vehicle is one of 74 electric buses currently in service with RATP, but it will soon be joined by many, many more. A further 1,000 will arrive over the next two years as part of RATP’s mission for all 4,700 of its buses to be electric or gas-powered by 2025 – a target that has now become law. Diesel will disappear.

It’s not just about the vehicles, of course. Equipping RATP’s 25 bus depots with new charging/fuelling infrastructure is also a major undertaking (17 will be electric and eight will be gas). RATP plans overnight charging for its electric buses rather than in-service ‘opportunity charging’.

Underground bus depots

We soon arrived at our first stop, RATP’s Lagny bus depot, on the east side of the city centre (which is set to become an electric depot). This site has been completely redeveloped by SEDP, the subsidiary company created in 1990 to manage RATP’s real estate. The old Lagny bus depot was built in 1887 and could accommodate 100 buses. It was demolished and a new depot was built underground with three levels and space for 180 buses. Above the depot a large building (which somehow resembles a New Routemaster) houses offices, a creche and green spaces.

SEDP is working on 15 projects like this, of which six are bus depots. For example, there are ambitious plans to demolish RATP’s Montrouge bus depot, located to the south of Paris, and replace it with a new 195-vehicle underground facility. Above ground there will be 650 new flats (including 350 for students and 170 for social housing), financed with public and private sector partners. There will also be a primary school, creche and a club for senior people.

A social landlord too

RATP is not just a public transport operator – it’s a social landlord. Since 1959, its Logis- Transports subsidiary has sought to provide better living conditions for RATP employees and support social housing in the region. Logis-Transports manages 10,000 rental flats in 129 different sites in Greater Paris, of which 45% are occupied by RATP employees. Further flats are meanwhile being built at a rate of 350 per year.

Buses that park themselves

The next part of our tour was a demonstration of autonomous parking at the Lagny bus centre. In partnership with bus builder Iveco Bus and public research organisation CEA, RATP is creating Europe’s first fully autonomous garage. The experiment is part of the European Bus System of the Future 2 (EBSF 2) program launched in 2015 and co-financed by the European Union.

With a driver at the wheel (but not doing anything) and a technician observing an array of monitors on board, we were passengers on the 12-metre vehicle as it drove itself down a ramp to a lower level and parked itself. It then powered up and pulled out of the space, returning us to the upper level. It really has to be seen to be believed!

The technology is expected to help bus operators to make optimum use of space in depots in dense urban environments. Also, with the move to electric, there will be no need to employ shunters on night shifts to get vehicles in the right place for re-charging.

Driverless shuttles

Our tour then took us a short distance eastwards to Château de Vincennes, where we travelled on a driverless shuttle. RATP first tested the French-built EasyMile EZ10 shuttle in central Paris in September 2016. RATP has
since conducted trials in a number of different locations, carrying a total of 43,000 people. Two
of these electric vehicles, which can carry 12 passengers (including six seated) and travel at 8mph, now run a free shuttle service between Château de Vincennes metro station and Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in Paris.

RATP sees these vehicles as a way of providing the often elusive ‘last mile’ link and is keen to find out how the vehicles perform in different operating locations – ‘leaves on the line’ have apparently posed a challenge in the current tree-lined location!

Automated metros

Returning to Château de Vincennes metro station we boarded the Line 1, a shining example of RATP’s expertise in autonomous metro systems, and the final stop on the tour was the line’s operational control centre near Place de la Bastille. In 2012, Line 1, which carries 180 million passengers a year, became is the first 100-year-old, high capacity metro line to be automated without interruption to operation. Conversion of the line enabled a headway of 85 seconds (instead of 105 seconds previously), greatly enhancing capacity. Line 4 is now in the process of being automated, with completion due in 2022.

The funding model

Funding is an enormous challenge, of course. Île-de-France Mobilité (formerly STIF) is the organisation authority that controls and coordinates public transport in the region. It has an annual budget of 10 billion Euros for operations. Interestingly, the largest portion of its income does not come from ticket sales (30%) or public subsidies (20%) – it’s from the region’s employers. Together, they contribute 47% of the overall income, either from the versement transport (local transport tax) or through the requirement to reimburse their employees for 50% of the cost of their season ticket.


SHOW PREVIEW: Transports Publics 2018

The environment will be a key theme of this year’s Transports Publics 2018 European Mobility Exhibition in Paris, on June 12-14.

During this three-day event – which is free to attend – Paris will become the European capital of mobility, with tomorrow’s transport solutions taking shape amid the stands at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre.

For manufacturers, operators, service providers, policymakers, and other professionals working in the sector, Transports Publics is an unmissable biennial event at which new ideas emerge, partnerships are forged, and agreements to develop the transport of the future are signed.

The future in question is becoming greener and ever more innovative, involving alternative energy sources, emissions control solutions, low emission vehicles, and active travel. Indeed, there will be a special focus on innovations capable of rising to the twin challenges of energy and environmental transition.

More than ever before, the 2018 edition of the show will be highlighting smart solutions that harness technology for the benefit of users; after all, Europeans spend an average of two hours a day in some form of transport, and research conducted across 10 countries last year by Ipsos and Boston Consulting found that 66% of them regret having to use a car most of the time.

In view of these growing expectations, the public transport offering is diversifying and offering new combinations of sustainable multi-modal solutions geared to city life – and opening up hard-to-reach areas too.

Meanwhile, this year’s guests of honour, the City of Los Angeles and its LA Metro network, will be telling the story of how they’ve engaged in the much-needed adaptation of their transport offering to local specifics and user expectations (see panel).

With over 250 exhibitors and 11,000 participants, Transports Publics, the European Mobility Exhibition, is a key meeting place for the entire industry. It’s designed to cater to everyone from start-ups to international operators, opening up fresh horizons and shifting paradigms.

Jean-Pierre Farandou, the CEO of Keolis, which operates networks in 16 countries, is looking forward to meeting key stakeholders from some 70 different countries there.

“Many manufacturers will be introducing us to their latest releases,” he explains, relishing the opportunity offered by this event without borders to “compare and contrast approaches in different European countries.”

Transdev boss Thierry Mallet shares Farandou’s enthusiasm. Heading up a company that transports 10 million people worldwide every day, he sees the show rather like a time machine, offering an opportunity to “imagine the future” and “take stock in a rapidly-changing world.”

This event has impressed the British visitors who have visited in previous years. Reflecting on his visit to the last show, in 2016, Reading Buses CEO Martijn Gilbert said it was “truly an all-encompassing ‘public transport’ show” 

“The Transports Publics show was certainly thought-provoking and it was great to get an insight into some very different approaches to some of today’s transport challenges and opportunities,” he said.



Further coverage of Whim’s launch appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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