Paris Metro

Oldest Paris Metro line introduces driverless trains

The Paris Metro’s oldest and busiest line has been converted to fully automatic operation, with the first driverless trains entering service on 3 November.

The system operator, RATP, says the conversion is a world first in terms of technology and organisation. Not only was the line automated without any major interruption to services, but the driverless trains are being introduced gradually and will run among manually-driven vehicles until December 2012 when the changeover is complete.

Metro Line 1 connects the east and west of the city along 17km of track and carries up to 725 000 passengers every day. It is popular with tourists, as it serves the Hôtel de Ville (city hall), the Louvre, Place de la Concorde, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe and the high-rise district La Défense. A steady increase in passenger traffic made it necessary to upgrade the line.

Siemens has supplied the fully automatic train protection system, which will ensure shorter headways and faster journey times than conventional driver-operated systems. Trains on Line 1 can now be spaced at 85 second intervals instead of the previous 105 seconds, and train frequency can be adapted flexibly to suit ridership. This is particularly important during special events.

"This is a world premiere for us. It is the first time we've automated such an important and heavily frequented mass-transit route without disrupting normal services" said Jochen Eickholt, CEO of Siemens' Rail Automation Business Unit.

RATP will start off with mixed running on the line, but by the beginning of 2013, all 49 vehicles are due to be modified for driverless operation. Train movements are controlled by the control centre, which was also supplied by Siemens.

The installation of 954 platform screen doors on all the lines’ platforms will contribute significantly to the smooth running of the line, avoiding interruptions associated with track intrusions, while also enhancing passenger safety. Intercoms have been installed to allow contact with a supervisor at the command centre (PCC) at all times. Onboard cameras will allow supervisors to instantly assess live situations and make realtime decisions while remaining in contact with passengers.

Gérald Churchill, RATP operations director for Line 1 automation, explained that the task was complicated by the need to work in ‘reverse design’. “Normally, a line is built according to the constraints of the automated systems. For Line 1, we had to adapt our automated systems’ operations to the physical constraints of an existing line,” he commented.

Lessons learned during the project give RATP an advantage in exporting its experience, Churchill said. “Seventy per cent of subway line construction worldwide is now in automatic lines. Over the next ten years, there will be as many conversions of existing lines as there will be construction of new lines. This trend is a major strength for RATP, which has developed real expertise in the field of automated systems. ”

The conversion of Line 1 was undertaken in the context of the overall modernisation of the subway, and financed entirely by RATP for a sum of €600 million, which was only an additional 4 per cent compared to the cost of replacing the Line’s existing equipment.

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