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January 20, 2012


‘Mind the Gap’ Goes International

by soundlandscapes

I HAVE EXCITING NEWS from Line 1 of the Paris Metro!   The 725,000 passengers who travel on this line every day, including me, are now enjoying new, driverless, automatic trains. And what’s more, we have new, up-market  ‘Mind the Gap’ announcements as well.

In November last year, the first automatic trains went into service on Line 1.  RATP, (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) the Paris mass transit authority, sent me a letter to tell me about this and to say that two new automatic trains a month will be introduced so that by the end of 2012 Line 1 will be completely automatic.

Paris already has of course the world’s first fully automated Metro line, Line 14, which runs from Saint Lazare to Olympiades on a north-west south-east diagonal across the centre of Paris. The conversion of Line 1 is another first. It’s the first time that an old, working Metro line (Line 1 was built in 1900) has been converted to be fully automatic without any disruption to the service. That’s quite an achievement. The work to reconfigure the platforms and to install the sophisticated electronics began in 2008 and it’s been a long process. I know because I’ve watched it all unfold. Sometimes, it seemed that the work would never end.

The Automatic MP 05 Train

The new automatic, air-conditioned trains are built by Alstom and they have been designated with the appellation, MP 05. MP (matériel pneus) means that they have rubber tyres. 05 refers to the date of the original tender for these trains that was issued in 2005. These new trains are replacing the existing MP 89’s, which I’ve become very fond of since I’ve been here. The good news is that the MP 89’s will have an afterlife. As they’re removed from Line 1 they will see many more years of service on Line 4.

The MP 89 Train

As if all this wasn’t exciting enough I have even more exciting news! The new, automatic trains on Line 1 have new announcers and a special new announcement for ‘Mind the Gap’.

A source inside RATP, the man responsible for the sound identity of the Paris Metro, has given me some really interesting information, which I’m delighted to share with you. RATP take their sound identity very seriously. They have introduced foreign languages for some announcements and they pay particular attention to their authenticity by using native speakers. French and English are always present but they add other rotating languages, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.

‘Mind the Gap’ goes international:

There we go, ‘Mind the Gap’ in French, English, German and Japanese.

The male voice used in this announcement is a British RATP staff member working in the marketing department. The French female voice is a former metro train driver on Line 1.

Well done RATP not only for excelling at converting Line 1 to automatic without any disruption but also for having the foresight to give such a high profile to the sound identity of the Paris Metro.

I can’t help wondering what Fulgence Bienvenüe, the one-armed railway engineer and ‘Father of the Metropolitan’ would make of it all. I like to think he would approve.

To hear more of ‘Mind the Gap’ click on the links below:

Mind the Gap:

Mind the Gap – An Update:

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 20 2012

    I love this post. Thanks for the awesome work, Des!

  2. Jan 22 2012

    So smooth, the voices and the acceleration of the train; quite seductive in fact. The carriages look so clean as well – I wonder how long that will last!

    • Jan 22 2012

      Thanks for your comment Jay. Yes, these new trains are a bit special and the whole project is a great credit to RATP. I love the emphasis they give to the sound identity of the Metro. Apart from some litter, most people seem to respect the Paris Metro so I hope these carriages will remain in good condition for a long time.

  3. Perfectly fitting that the 1 line, the first subway line to be built in the city, should be the first one to have this kid of modernization. Personally I always look forward to taking the 1 train; the cars are clean & spacious, and the ride is smooth. Here’s to more lines adopting the same!

    • Apr 10 2012

      The whole of the Paris Metro system is gradually being modernised but some lines are moving quicker than others. Line 1 though is the only one to be converted to automatic. Line 14 of course is automatic but it was built as such. The automatic lines are fantastic but there is still something romantic about the old trains that rattle and creak. Line 5 is a good example.

      • Jun 24 2012

        Agreed, I definitely like how the system is being modernized. Lines 1, 2, 4, 5, (and soon 9) will all have modern rolling stock (well, Line 2 already has, the others are in transition). Lines 3 and 13 have had their existing rolling stock modernized as well.

  4. Jun 24 2012

    As far as “mind the gap” messages go. I believe they are now present on the following lines that have the automated service announcements.

    Line 1 (MP 05 trains) – “Mind the gap” and “Doors open on the left” messages are done in French (male), English (male), German (female), and Japanese (female). ~~ Station name announcements (female).

    Line 4 (MP 89 trains) – “Mind the gap” and “Doors open on the left” messages are done in French (male), English (female), and Spanish (female). ~~ Station name announcements (male).

    Line 5 (MF 01 trains) – “Mind the gap” and “Doors open on the left” messages are done in French (female), English (female), and Italian (male). ~~ Station name announcements (male).

    Lines 2, 3, and 13 also have their trains equipped with automated service announcements, but I do not know what languages the “mind the gap” announcements are presented in.

    Also to note, although Line 14 does not have any curved platforms, there is a “Doors open to the left” message at Gare de Lyon, as it has an island platform. These messages were originally done in French, English, and Spanish (all male voices) when the line first opened. The revised messages are done in French (male), English (male), and Italian (female).

    So out of all the metro lines, seven of them have rolling stock that are equipped with automated station announcements.

    • Jun 24 2012

      Thanks Walt. I can help you a little more with this.

      Song Phanakem is the man responsible for the sound identity of RATP which includes the Métro, the buses, the RER and the trams. You can see Song at work here:

      As far as the Métro announcements are concerned, the ones you have referred to use French, English and German as the standard languages and then they also use Spanish, Italian and Japanese as rotating languages. It’s important to note that the announcers are not actors or voice-over artists, they are all employees of RATP. The plan is to introduce the same style announcements, but all individually recorded, to all the Metro lines. A similar programme is being carried out on the buses and the trams as well.

      • Jun 24 2012

        You’re welcome! It is a great thing that the RATP is coming out with this. I think it’s real neat. If only New York City’s MTA could do the same for its subway (announcements in English, Spanish, and Italian).

  5. Aug 8 2012

    I am reporting somewhat heartbreaking news; the MP 05 announcements have recently changed. It seems the RATP is trying to implement a style similar to what the MP 89 brought to Line 1, but it simply is not the same. You can see a sampling of what has changed via the YouTube link below.

  6. Meteor
    Aug 9 2012

    Do not worry, this is a temporarily feature due to some operating upgrades. Everything will return to its normal situation in September (with some enhancements, but we will of course keep our signature announcements).

    Line 2 has no foreign languages at this moment, but updates are on the way to introduce english (female) as usual, and german (male). Stations are announced by a female voice.

    On line 3 you can hear english (male), italian (female) and on line 13, english (male), spanish (male). Stations are announced by female voices.

    And this is exclusive news for line 9: future MF01 train sets will feature male announcements for the stations, female for service messages, female for english and male for italian.

    • Aug 9 2012

      Thank you so much! I was thinking the measure of the ASA on Line 1 was only temporary. It is good to hear that the ASA onboard the MF 01 of Line 2 is being enhanced as well. And Line 9 is always a delight. I’ve been hearing so little about it.

  7. FredrikB
    Oct 12 2012

    I just found this blog, quite by accident, and I love it. In general, we pay very little attention to the everyday sounds around us until one day we realise they’re forever gone.

    Just wanted to comment on the line 14 as being the “world’s first fully automated Metro line”. This may be a matter of definition, but I think that the VAL of Lille, inaugurated in 1983, would qualify for that title.

    Still, this doesn’t make your blog any less enjoyable.

    Very best regards,


    • Oct 12 2012

      Many Thanks Fredrik, and thanks for reminding me about the VAL in Lille. I’d quite forgotten about it!

      I’m so pleased that you enjoy the blog. It embraces two of my passions, sound recording and this wonderful city of Paris. I think it’s really important to preserve the everyday sounds around us so that future generations can experience what our early 21st century life actually sounded like. I always think it’s such a shame that we don’t have a comprehensive sonic tapestry of our earlier history. Sadly, most of our sonic heritage has passed by completely unrecorded.

      I hope you continue to enjoy the blog and your comments are always welcome.

  8. Enrique
    Oct 21 2013

    I would add to Paris Metro announcements this languages​​: Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Russian.

    • Oct 21 2013

      Chinese is already in place along Line 1. But Portuguese, Korean, and Russian would be totally awesome to hear along the various lines! 🙂

      I’ve seen in a couple YouTube videos the modified ASA for Line 2, but I assume it is not final yet. The MF 01 railcars are scheduled to go into revenue service on Line 9 today, so we will be hearing the new ASA on that line for the first time this week!

      • Oct 23 2013

        Think I may have gotten confused with Japanese. Maybe that’s what is currently being used on Line 1. I cannot remember now.

  9. Oct 23 2013

    Now that the MF 2000 trains are rolling out to Line 9, I’m pleased to share a video that someone uploaded to YouTube! The “Mind the Gap” announcements are pretty unique in a way, though the female English voice is the same one that is used on Lines 4 and 5, and I think the female French voice is the same as Line 5 too (don’t quote me on that second voice though, I can’t tell the differences right now). I like most though the male Italian voice, something not heard on Line 14 because none of her stations are curvy.

    Here’s the link:


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  1. Updated: Multilingual Transit & Inclusive Wayfinding – Liam O'Connell

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