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Light Rail Projects in France: Expansion to achieve ecological and efficient transit solutions [free access]

May 1, 2021

A shift in focus to sustainable transport solutions targeted at decreasing congestion has created a favourable environment for the deployment of light rail systems across France. The light rail network in the country comprises four types of networks, that is, normal gauge tram, metric gauge tram, rubber-tyred tram, and tram-train, and is currently available in 29 cities across France. The three prominent operators that are in charge of the majority of the services in the country are Keolis, Transdev, and RATP Dev.

 

The most extensive tram networks in the country are the network in Paris/Île-de-France with 11 lines (considering Line 3a and Line 3b as two separate lines), Lyon with eight lines, Strasbourg with six lines, and Montpellier with four lines.

 

Future plans for light rail projects

 

Currently, a total of 25 projects spanning 178.9 km, covering 216 stations across nine cities/ metropolitan areas are under development.

 

Table 1 provides an overview of the light rail projects in France.

 

Table 1: Upcoming light rail projects in France

Project
name

Length
(km)

No. of stations

Expected
opening

Capital cost
(USD million)

Angers Tramway Line B & C

9.9

19

2023

337.8                            

Bordeaux Tramway Line A Extension

5

5

2022

99.1                       

Bordeaux Tramway Line D Extension

5

4

2024

TBA

Bordeaux Tramway Line B Extension

5.8

9

TBA

                                      149.3

Brest Tram Line B

5.4

11

2025

                                      143.1

Montpellier Tramway Line 5

17

25

2025

491.9

Nantes Tramway Line 6

TBA

TBA

2026

TBA

Nantes Tramway Line 7

TBA

TBA

2026

TBA

Nantes Tramway Line 8

TBA

TBA

2026

TBA

Paris Tramway Line T10

8.2

14

2023

428.4                             

Paris Tramway Line T1 rolling stock modernisation

NA

NA

2024

TBA

Paris Tramway T1 Asnières-Gennevilliers Les Courtilles to Colombes – Gabriel Péri Extension Phase II

5.5

10

2025

208.4

Paris Tramway T1 Extension (Noisy-le-Sec to Val-de-Fontenay)

10.7

21

2024

                                      382.6

Paris Tramway T7 Extension

3.7

6

TBA

215.8                       

Paris Tramway T8 Extension

5.5

9

2030

196.8                       

Paris Tram-train Line T11- Express East Extension

TBA

TBA

2024

1,093.1                             

Paris Tram-train Line T11- Express West Extension

TBA

TBA

2027

Cost combined for east and west extensions of T11

Paris Tram-train Line T12

20.4

16

2022

673.4                                

Paris Tram-train Line T12- Express South Extension (Phase II)

14.6

6

2025

TBA

Paris Tram-train Line T13- Express West (Phase I)

18.8

11

2022

410.1                                 

Paris Tram-train Line T13- Express West (Phase II)

10.5

4

2026

331.5                             

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Val'Tram Phase I

14

11

2025

153.5                            

Tours Tramway Line A Extension

0.7

1

2025

19.67–24.05 

Tours Tramway Line B

15

27

2025

382.6                     

Avignon Tramway Line 2 (T2)

3.2

7

2025

75.6                                   

Notes : NA – Not applicable, TBA – To be announced

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Angers

 

The system is operated by RATP Dev. It comprises Line A, which provides a north–south connection and spans 12 km from Avrillé to La Roseraie, across 25 stations.

 

Upcoming line – The Angers Tramway Line B & C project will cover the creation of Line B that will span 9.9 km between the neighbourhoods of Belle-Beille and Montplaisir by passing through the city centre. The project is financed by national, regional, and European funds.

 

The line will serve 18 stations, two of which will have connections with Line A. Line C will be made to run alongside Line B. Line C will follow the same route as Line B till the Molière station, and will then follow the same route as Line A between the stations of Foch-Maison Bleue and Angers-Roseraie, providing a direct route from the west side of the city to the train station. Line A’s route through the city centre will also be changed to serve both the already existing Centre de Congrès station and the upcoming Hôtel de Ville station included in the Angers Tramway Line B & C project.

 

Service on the line will be provided by a fleet of 18 low-floor light rail vehicles (LRVs). Each LRV will be 33.5 metres long, with a capacity for up to 217 passengers. In 2019, Angers Loire Métropole ordered 20 tram trains for tram lines B and C from Alstom. The project is currently under construction.

 

Bordeaux

 

The system is operated by Keolis. The current network spans 74.3 km (Line A is 24.2 km long, Line B is 19.5 km long, Line C is 20.8 km long, Line D is 13.8 km long, Lines C and D share 4 km of tracks), across 133 stations (Line A has 46 stations, Line B has 37 stations, Line C has 35 stations, Line D has 24 stations, Lines C and D share nine stations between Carle Vernet and Quinconces).

 

Upcoming lines

 

 

 

 

Brest

 

The system is operated by RATP Dev. It comprises only one line, the Y-shaped Line A that spans 14.3 km, connecting Porte de Plouzané to Pontanézen, and then splitting into two branches, with one branch to Porte de Gouesnou and the other to Porte de Guipavas. The line covers 28 stations.

 

Upcoming line: Brest Tram Line B, will span 5.4 km, connecting Gare, Bellevue, and Hôpital de la Cavale Blanche, and covering 11 stations. Preparatory work is expected to commence in 2022. The line will be funded by the government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It is currently under planning.

 

Montpellier

 

it is operated by Transports de l'agglomération de Montpellier (TaM). The current system comprises four tram lines that span 56 km across 84 stations, serving eight towns in the metropolis.

 

Upcoming line: Montpellier Tramway Line 5 will span approximately 17 km to connect  Lavérune (West) to Clapiers (North), passing through the city centre, across 25 stations. The faculties of Science and Literature and the CNRS will be connected to the new Ovalie district and to the Yves du Manoir stadium. This line will assist the expansion and functioning of the future tram network by strengthening transit services by providing access to a large number of activity centres for all inhabitants of the metropolis. It will also preserve the attractiveness of the centre of Montpellier while ensuring its protection against pollution and congestion caused by general traffic.

 

The project is being developed using government funds. Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole has provided EUR346 million, EUR31 million has been requested from the federal government, EUR50 million has been requested from the Occitanie region, and EUR23 million has been requested from the Hérault Department. The project is currently under construction.

 

Nantes

 

The lines are operated by Société d'Economie Mixte des Transports de l'Agglomération Nantaise (Semitan). The Nantes tram network currently consists of three lines that span 44.2 km (18.4 km for Line 1, 11.7 km for Line 2, and 14.1 km for Line 3) across 83 stations, which are spread over the 44.3 km of length of the commercial lines of the network. Lines 2 and 3 have a common track across seven stations between Commerce and Pirmil. 

 

Upcoming lines

 

 

 

 

The plan to develop the three new tram lines was announced in June 2019. The three lines will have a common terminus: the new Basse-Île station, in Rezé. By 2030–2035, a second phase will be launched by Nantes Métropole to continue the extension of the new tram lines, to increase the number of transport options, and to promote the complementarity of the modes of travel.

 

Paris

 

Paris/ Île-de-France currently has 11 lines (considering Line 3a and Line 3b as two separate lines) that span 104.7 km across 212 stations. All lines, except Line 4 and Line 11 Express, are operated by Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP). Line 4 is operated by Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF) as part of its Transilien regional rail network. Line 11 Express is operated by Transkeo, a 51 per cent subsidiary of Keolis and 49 per cent of SNCF.

 

Upcoming lines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

 

The Aubagne tramway is the existing tram system in Aubagne, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.  It is operated by Régie des transports métropolitains (RTM). It comprises only one line, Line T, that spans 2.8 km from Le Charrel to La Bouilladisse across seven stations.

 

Upcoming line – The Val'Tram project includes plans to extend the current line by 14 km from Aubagne station to La Bouilladisse, across five municipalities (La Bouilladisse, La Destrousse, Auriol, Roquevaire, and Aubagne). The project consists of the rehabilitation of the old railway line between Aubagne and La Bouilladisse. The route is planned to be connected with the TER network, the metropolitan coach lines, the relay car parks, and the bicycle stations that will be located along a secure cycle path. Eight Citadis Compact tram trains are expected to be deployed on the lines. The project is expected to be funded by the government. The project is currently under planning.

 

Tours

 

The system is operated by Keolis. The network comprises only one line, Line A, that spans 14.8 km from Lycée Jacques de Vaucanson to the Lycée Jean-Monnet, across 29 stations. The route connects with the bus service, and with SNCF’s Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) and with the rail network at Gare de Tours, the city’s main railway station.

 

Upcoming lines

 

 

 

Avignon

 

The network is operated by TCRA, a  subsidiary of the Transdev group and consists of only one line, Line T1, which spans 5.2 km across 10 stations.

 

Upcoming line – Avignon Tramway Line 2 (T2) will span 3.2 km from the Île Piot car park and the Saint-Lazare district, across seven stations. The first phase of work is expected to begin in 2022, later than the initially scheduled date of 2021. The construction work on Line T2 has been postponed for two years to limit the impact on traders who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first studies for the line began in November 2019. The project is expected to be funded by the Greater Avignon/Communauté d’Agglomération du Grand Avignon and by other government authorities.

 

The upcoming line will be integrated with Line T1 and with Line C2, the bus line of the Chron'hop network. In the long term, Line T2 is planned to have two extension, including the first one to Gare du Pontet, and the other one to the Réalpanier Commercial Zone.

 

Conclusion

 

Plans for network expansion in the country are driven by the city administration’s push for the projects through funding allocation and its emphasis on the development of ecologically friendly and efficient transit that can add to the city’s cultural value and modern infrastructure.

 

Government funding

 

Almost all the light rail projects that are currently being developed in France have either secured or are planned to be funded by the federal, regional, or city governments. Occasionally, European funds are utilised in combination with government funds. Avoiding funds by private investors gives the government greater control over the project and removes the risks of disputes with private parties.

 

Ecological and cultural value

 

Bus services are suitable for transporting fewer people over shorter distances while trains are more efficient in moving higher numbers of people faster over longer distances. Trams, being more flexible than trains, provide services that combine the benefits of bus services and standard rail services. Trams provide faster connectivity over a shorter distance and are more spacious than bus services. Trams are also less costly than metro rail services and commuter rail services, and are chosen to service the central or core areas of cities.

 

In France, the widespread adoption of tram extensions and systems is driven by three factors: the proven success of trams in reducing congestion, the ability of trams to enhance a city’s overall cultural value, and a city/regional government’s ambition to build more efficient and sustainable infrastructure than its neighbouring administration.

 

Loi d'orientation des mobilités (LOM)/Law of 'orientation mobility, adopted in November 2019, emphasises the need for the ecological transition of transport services across France. It foresees a EUR13.4 billion public investment in the transport sector in the period from 2018 to 2022, up by 40 per cent from the previous five-year period, with a focus on facilitating the use of public transport solutions to replace private driving. As government policies across the country are turning increasingly to the deployment of sustainable transport to enable a green recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the uptake of tram networks is expected to receive a significant boost in the coming years.