UNVEILING HIS strategic plan for 2008-12 on October 6, the new President of Paris transport operator RATP Pierre Mongin announced proposals to develop an orbital metro route, about 2 km to 3 km outside the Boulevard Périphérique and paralleling the largely-disused Petite Ceinture railway ring.

Known as Métrophérique, the new line would be fully automatic and run entirely in tunnel, allowing commercial speeds of 40 km/h. Stations would be located at 1 km intervals along a route which would be around 40 km long. Estimated cost is put at €4bn to €6bn. Mongin said the line would help RATP cope with growing traffic between the suburbs, relieving the metro in the city centre as people would no longer need to cross the capital. Métrophérique could attract up to 400 000 passengers/day.

The proposal mirrors many aspects of the Orbital project, which first featured in the RATP master plan as long ago as 1976. The route is not a complete circle, leaving a gap between La Défense, Boulogne-Billancourt and Issy-les-Moulineaux which is already served by light rail line T2. 'It is the right time to put forward good ideas', explained Mongin, who took over from Anne-Marie Idrac when she moved to SNCF in July. However, he admitted that 'the decision now belongs to the state and the region'.

Responding to the proposal the same day, Ile de France President Jean-Paul Huchon described the orbital proposal as 'nonsense', insisting that the conseil régional was not ready to provide a centime. He added 'what the region needs are projects for now or for the short term, not projects that will develop in 20 or 30 years time'.

During his presentation, Mongin announced that 6 500 CCTV cameras will be installed in existing metro stations, at an average of around 10 per station. He also gave a commitment that escalators would be repaired within 4 h of a breakdown.

From next month the metro will operate later on Saturday nights, until 02.15 on Sunday morning, and in 2007 later running will be extended to Friday nights as well. The longer working times will require the recruiting of 140 more drivers - the introduction of fully-automatic trains on Line 1 is not expected to begin until mid-2009 for completion by the end of 2010.

RATP reported good results for the first six months of 2006, with a turnover of €1·8bn generating an operating profit of €150·4m. However, debts rose from €4·1bn to €4·2bn.

Claiming that there had been a shortfall in capital investment in the Paris urban rail network since the construction of the RER in the mid-1970s, Mongin said RATP had a backlog of infrastructure and rolling stock renewals which will cost €40bn to rectify. Investment will rise to €900m this year, compared with €500m five years ago.

The existing contract between RATP and regional transport authority STIF expires at the end of 2007, and Mongin anticipates that a new formula will be adopted for financing public transport in Ile de France.

Suburban spending confirmed

Presenting his budget proposals for 2007 to the STIF board on October 11, Jean-Paul Huchon confirmed that STIF expects to invest more than €2bn to refurbish or replace suburban trainsets used in the Ile de France region over the next few years.

The programme will start with an initial tranche of €1bn, which will fund a fleet of 172 single-deck NAT EMUs (Nouvelles Automotrices Transiliennes). These are to be delivered at a rate of 30 trains/year from 2009 to 2015 (RG 5.06 p246). SNCF was due to announce the winning supplier on October 25, but it had already been reported that Bombardier was preferred bidder.

Able to run at a maximum speed of 130 km/h, the NAT sets will be used on lines from Paris-Nord to Pontoise and Valmondois/Persan-Beaumont, from Paris-Saint Lazare to Mantes-la-Jolie and from Paris-Est to Meaux and Coulommiers. In addition, by the end of next year, the région is due to buy 24 electro-diesel AGC multiple-units to operate the routes from Paris-Est to Provins and La Ferté Milon.

Huchon confirmed that 40% of the existing Transilien fleet will be refurbished. To start the programme, SNCF is to modernise 635 double-deck EMU cars used on RER Lines C and D as well as suburban services from Saint Lazare, Nord and Est.

* Protests took place outside the French transport ministry on October 9 against the plans for the CDG Express airport rail link. Local residents would prefer to see the project scrapped in favour of modernising the northern section of RER Line B. This is estimated at €240m, compared to €630m for CDG Express, which is not expected to open before 2012. Replacement of the Line B fleet would add a further €240m. This compares with just €10m allocated for modernisation of Line B during 2006.

Météor extension needed

LOCAL AUTHORITY representatives on STIF are lobbying RATP to bring forward plans for an extension of the automated Line 14 from Saint Lazare to relieve overcrowding on Line 13. They want to see the project included in the 2007-13 contract-plan to be negotiated between STIF and the French government.

Used by around 110 million passengers per year, Line 13 is already running at 116% of its design capacity north of Saint Lazare as far as the present junction at La Fourche. Traffic is expected to increase by 23 000 trips per day with the opening of two more stations on the Asnières-Genevilliers branch in 2008, and further growth is projected as a result of urban regeneration along the Saint Denis branch.

RATP has made Line 13 a priority in its Ouragan programme of resignalling and ATO, which promises a reduction in peak headways from 105 to 90 sec, but Deputy Director-General Yves Ramette confirmed in September that installation is running late and the equipment is unlikely to be ready by mid-2008 as planned.

Studies for various options have already been undertaken by RATP. The cost of boring a new tunnel for Line 14 beyond the current turnback sidings at Place de Clichy to La Fourche, and converting one of the branches (probably Asnières-Gennevilliers) to rubber-tyred automatic operation is put at around €1bn. An alternative would be to bore a parallel tunnel and separate the two Line 13 branches between La Fourche and St-Lazare, but this would still cost €600m.