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FRANCE: The length of Paris’ driverless metro Line 14 was more than doubled on June 24, when President Emmanuel Macron joined transport authority Ile-de-France-Mobilités and operator RATP to inaugurate northern and southern extensions.

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Also present at the opening ceremony were IdFM President Valérie Pécresse, RATP CEO Jean Castex, Société des Grands Projets President Jean-François Monteils and Augustin de Romanet, President of Aéroports de Paris.

Line 14 previously ran for 14 km from Mairie-de-Saint-Ouen to Olympiades, serving 13 stations and carrying 550 000 passengers per day. In 2015, it was agreed that the line should be extended north to St-Denis-Pleyel and south to Orly airport, as part of the Grand Paris Express automated metro programme. GPE promoter SGP has funded the €3bn expansion, but delegated the project management to RATP. IdFM has procured the 72 MP14 trainsets for €1·13bn, and will cover the annual operating costs estimated at around €500m.

Opening of the line was scheduled for June 2024, ahead of Paris hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games in late July and early August.

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Two extensions in one

The northern extension runs for 1·6 km from Mairie de St-Ouen to Saint-Denis-Pleyel, which is destined to become a major hub for the orbital GPE network. The southern route lengthening runs 12·3 km from Olympiades to Aéroport d’Orly, adding a further six stations with another at Villejuif-Gustave-Roussy expected to open in December.

At 28 km with 21 stations, Line 14 is now the longest metro line in Paris; it is expected to carry more than 1 million passengers/day, comparable to RER lines A and B. End-to-end journey time is 40 min, while the airport can be reached from Chatelet in the city centre in no more than 25 min. The line is covered by the city’s Navigo transport pass, but there is a special fare for travel to or from the airport, which is not accessible using traditional magnetic tickets.

New rolling stock

To operate the extended line, RATP and IdFM have procured a fleet of 72 eight-car rubber-tyred MP14CA trainsets from Alstom. The 120 m long wide-bodied trains have 184 fixed and 76 folding seats, and two wheelchair spaces; they have a maximum capacity of 932 passengers. They are equipped with CCTV and passenger information displays.

Alstom France CEO Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud said the MP14s had involved seven Alstom plants, at Valenciennes, Le Creusot, Ornans, Tarbes, Villeurbanne, Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Ouen. RATP required at least 50 trainsets to start the commercial service on the extended line, and Alstom had committed to deliver 54 in time for the opening. At the peak of production, he said, Alstom was assembling three vehicles every two days and deliveries were running at one train per week.

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Major interchanges

Both termini will act as major interchanges with the Grand Paris Express orbital automated metro lines, and have therefore been built to GPE specifications.

Orly is the second busiest airport in France, and its station is expected to handle around 95 000 passengers/day. It has been designed by Aéroports de Paris, within the GPE design codes, along the theme of connecting ‘the world of the air to the world of the ground’. The station will be operated until 2026 by RATP Dev subsidiary RD Orly 24, under a contract from IdFM which began in June 2023 to allow a preparatory period. That covered all of the commissioning and approval works for the new station, starting from a blank sheet, according to RD Orly 24 CEO Lionel Le Fessant, because of the major differences from a normal Paris metro station. He says the company’s main aim is to provide a ‘seamless journey’ through the station; roving ‘hosts’ will assist passengers, provide information and help them use the tickets vending machines. All of the staff are bilingual in French and English, and some also have other languages, he reported.

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The northern terminus at St-Denis-Pleyel will be the hub of the GPE network. It has been designed by architect Kengo Kuma and provides 34 000 m² of space, of which around half is for operational use. The station is operated by Keolis Compagnie du metro du Grand Paris, and Aloïs Kirchner from Keolis Ile-de-France told Metro Report International that the 20 staff had been trained in customer service through a partnership with Transport for London. There will be a station manager and a team of ambassadors, he explained.

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All eight stations on the Line 14 extensions have been equipped with a new design of platforms edge screens supplied by Portalp. Unlike those at other stations in Paris, the screens extend from the platform to the station roof, as requested by SGP for aerodynamic reasons. Each platform has 24 regular doorways to align with the MP14 trainsets, 47 emergency doors and seven ‘inter-car’ doors for access to the gangway areas. In total, Portalp has supplied 1 900 m of screens. Passenger information displays are mounted on the screens, along with indicator lights showing the status of the doors.

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Complete resignalling

In conjunction with the doubling of the line, RATP decided to replace the SAET Météor communications-based train control, which dated from the opening of the initial section of the line in 1998. The system was becoming obsolete and would not be able to handle the extensions. In 2018, Siemens Mobility was awarded a contract to supply a version of its Trainguard MT CBTC, developed at its Chatillon signalling centre. The new equipment is ‘a Made-in-France CBTC, fully developed in cooperation with RATP’, Siemens Mobility’s Director for Rail Infrastructure in France Vincent Fontanel explained to Metro Report International.

Comprising ATO, ATP and ATS layers, Trainguard MT CBTC offers mobile block functionality, with continuous track-train data transmission by Airlink radio; the increased bandwidth enables a greater volume of information to be transmitted. Another new feature is the use of digital rather than relay-based traction logic. For passengers, the most notable difference is the immediate opening of doors and platform edge screens at each station. Fontanel pointed out that every second counts on a high-capacity metro line, noting that Trainguard MT can support 85 sec headways at peak times.

Unlike the resignalling of metro lines 1 and 4, the CBTC on Line 14 was replaced in a ‘big-bang migration’, Fontanel explained. Lines 1 and 4 previously operated with drivers and GoA4 trains could be introduced gradually during a period of mixed running. However, Line 14 was already a GoA4 operation, and it would have been technically very complex to support inter-working between Météor and Trainguard MT with a demonstrable level of safety. RATP and Siemens Mobility therefore decided to suspend all traffic during the switchover in February, with the new system going live from February 26. Fontanel described the complete replacement of one GoA4 system by another as ‘a world première’.