Construction of Switzerland's first driverless metro is now expected to start in the spring

MAJOR CONSTRUCTION work is set to start next month on the SFr590m project to build a 6 km rubber-tyred metro in the Swiss city of Lausanne. Spread along a hillside on the north shore of Lac Léman, Lausanne already has a short rack railway, a light rail line to the suburb of Renens and a metre gauge regional railway, as well as main line and local services operated by Swiss Federal Railways.

Promoted by canton Vaud as the M2 project, the metro will replace the 1·5 km Lausanne - Ouchy rack line on the same alignment and then continue north to terminate at Croisettes in the suburb of Epalinges. It will form a major transport corridor, linking the lakeshore with the main station, the regional railway and light rail line at Flon, the cantonal administrative headquarters, the cantonal library, two museums, the university's faculty of medicine and several major sporting facilities. The interchanges at Gare CFF and Flon are expected to be the busiest stations, with Flon handling around 3000 passengers/h.

The difference in height between the lake shore and Croisettes is 338m, and the average gradient will be 5·7% with short sections at 12%. Adhesion tests carried out at Vauffelin near Biel confirmed that the trains meet all requirements for operation on the steep grades.

Trains will travel at up to 60 km/h, giving an end-to-end journey time of 18min. Services will operate at 3min intervals on the central section between the main station and Sallaz to give a capacity of 6600 passengers/h in each direction. Elsewhere trains will run every 6min.


The cost of the metro in Lausanne has been the topic of much debate, and indeed the cause of some delay to getting the project started (MR01 p38). A referendum was held in 2002, and this saw the scheme approved by 62% of local voters. This did not permit an immediate start on the project, but it did allow preparations to move forward.

In particular, the Lausanne - Ouchy metro company was appointed as project manager, and work began on assembling a team of experts to see the project completed. The vote also paved the way for contracts to be drawn up and detailed engineering design to be confirmed. Local contractors will handle the civil engineering works and Alstom has been chosen as the supplier of the trains and electrical and mechanical equipment.

Debate also centred on whether or not to move immediately to driverless operation. In practice there was little difficulty in approving the automation technology as the metro will use the same equipment as the automated NEL and Circle line in Singapore (MR03 p20). The debate culminated in a decision in principle to launch services with driverless trains from the outset. Platform-screen doors will be provided at all stations, and the entire operation will require a staff of 70 people.

The cars will be of the same design as those used on Paris Line14 (Météor), but with higher installed power to cope with the steep grades in Lausanne. A fleet of 15 two-car trains will be built, and all bogies will be motored. There will be three pairs of doors on each side of each car, and a wide inter-car gangway will ensure that passengers can move easily between the vehicles. Each train will have 62 seats with room for 160 standees.

Apart from a short section beneath the main station, the route will be double track throughout. The section from Ouchy to Grancy, just south of the main station, will remain in the open, but north of here the line will run mainly in tunnel below the city, with three short sections at grade.

The 14 stations will be built as close to the surface as possible, and the natural slope of the ground will be used to good effect in designing access at different levels and in ensuring that the stations benefit from natural light. Lifts and other facilities will cater for passengers in wheelchairs and those with pushchairs or luggage.

To minimise construction time, works will be launched at several locations simultaneously. The city authorities are very conscious of the disruption that construction will cause, and considerable efforts are being made to keep the population well informed. An information pavilion has been established, and local inhabitants will also be able to follow progress on the internet.

Completion is planned for 2007, and in due course M2 is expected to carry 25 million passengers a year.

  • CAPTION: The M2 metro line will serve the central part of Lausanne, offering interchange to all three of the city's other rail services
  • CAPTION: At present the two tracks of Lausanne's rack metro between Flon and the main station are operated as separate routes, with through trains to Ouchy on one track and a shuttle (above) on the other