READERS may recall that parts of the tram network in the French city of Bordeaux have a novel surface-contact power supply system known as Innorail, chosen to avoid littering the city centre with overhead wires and masts (RG 2.04 p89).

There was trouble even when President Chirac inaugurated the first section of the 43·7 km network last December, but the issue shot up the city’s agenda following opening on July 3 of the final section of Line B to Pessac. The Innorail equipment caused more trouble, and matters failed to improve over the next few days; services were interrupted for 10h on July 7.

All this was too much for Mayor Alain Juppé, who on July 8 wrote to supplier Alstom demanding at least 95 to 98% reliability by mid-September. The problem centres on the switching boxes set into the track, which have proved to be insufficiently robust and not fully watertight, made worse by inadequate drainage. Philippe Mellier, President of Alstom Transport, promised to have the issue resolved by the end of August. He said teams were working round the clock to replace the boxes, of which there are 980. We understand that they have been replaced at least once already.

What happens if Juppé’s threshold is not attained is not clear, but one proposal would see Innorail abandoned for Phase 2. There is even a suggestion that the existing third-rail sections could be rebuilt with unsightly overhead wires. Oh là là!