THE ‘END OF THE LINE’ STRAND in my Paris Soundscapes Archive is dedicated to the sounds I capture in and around each terminus station on the Paris Métro system. From time to time I share the atmosphere of some of these terminus stations and their surroundings on this blog.
In previous ‘End of the Line’ posts I’ve explored the sounds in and around the Métro station Les Courtilles, the branch of Paris Métro Line 13 terminating in the northwest of Paris, and the sounds in and around Métro station Château de Vincennes, the easterly terminus of Paris Métro Line 1. Now I’m going to explore the sounds in and around the Métro station La Défense – Grande Arche, the westerly terminus of Métro Line 1.
However, to make this ‘End of the Line’ segment more manageable I will divide it into two parts. Today’s post, Part 1, explores inside La Défense – Grande Arche station and the next post, Part 2, will explore the sounds around the station in what is said to be Europe’s largest purpose-built business district containing most of the Paris urban area’s tallest high-rise buildings.
La Défense looking to the West
Because it serves the largest business district in the Paris region, La Défense – Grande Arche is a multi-functional transport hub. Not only is it home to the western terminus of Métro Line 1, it also houses a Transilien suburban train station, an RER station, a tram station and a bus station, all designed principally to handle the huge number of commuters who travel to and from work in La Défense each day.
La Défense – Grande Arche: The main concourse
The business district of La Défense is so big that it actually has two Métro stations. Esplanade de la Défense is the first of these so it was approaching here on my way to La Défense – Grande Arche that I began my sonic exploration.
Exploring La Défense – Grande Arche station in sound:
Opened on 19th July 1900, Métro Line 1 is the oldest line on the Paris Métro network. Built by the one-armed railway engineer Fulgence Bienvenüe, to connect various sites of the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the original line comprised eighteen stations between Porte Maillot and Porte de Vincennes. In 1934, the line was extended to the east from Porte de Vincennes to Chateau de Vincennes and in 1937 it was extended to the west from Porte Maillot to Pont de Neuilly. In 1992, Line 1 was extended again to the west from Pont de Neuilly to La Défense. In 2007, work began to automate Line 1 and on 15th December 2012 a fully automatic service was introduced. Today the 16.5 km Métro Line 1 is the most utilised line on the Paris Métro network handling over 600,000 passengers per day.
Arriving at the La Défense – Grande Arche terminus, I alighted and made my way up to the cavernous station concourse. This used to be a dingy, inhospitable place but a recent coat of paint has brightened it up a bit and now, the usual suspects cater for the commuters.
From the main concourse I headed off to explore the tram station, home to Tram Line T2.
Tram Line T2, linking the south-west suburbs of Paris with La Défense, began operating in 1997. The tramway was built on the former train line thus making it independent from the road. An extension In 2009 added five more stations towards the south, extending to Port de Versailles and in November 2012, another 4.2 km northern extension beyond La Défense to Bezons added a further seven stations.
The extensions to Tram Line 2 are part of a larger scheme in the Île-de-France aiming to increase connectivity of the suburbs by creating up to 70km of bus and tramways around Paris.
The Transilien suburban trains operate from platforms adjacent to but separated from the tram platforms.
While the public address announcements in the main station concourse are almost unintelligible, those in the tram station are much better – even if they do seem to appear end-to-end.
From the tram station I went back to the concourse and on to the RER station and RER Line A.
With more than one million passengers a day, RER Line A is the busiest Parisian urban rail line.
With the section of the line running through the city centre closed each summer for maintenance and construction work, much to the dismay of commuters, and with the line badly affected by alerts for suspect packages, which have doubled in the last year, it’s hardly surprising that, according to a 2017 survey by transport authorities in the greater Paris region, trains on RER Line A run on time only 85.3% of the time. Add to that grossly overcrowded trains and the occasional strike and RER Line A can sometimes be a challenge.
Despite the introduction of advanced traffic control systems that enable extremely short spacing between trains during rush hour (under 90 seconds in stations, under 2 minutes in tunnels) together with several upgrades in rolling stock, ever-increasing traffic volume and imminent saturation continues to blight the line.
Still, it’s not the worst performing RER line. According to the 2017 survey, that accolade goes to RER Line D.
The sounds of La Défense – Grande Arche presented in this post are a distillation of my original ninety minute recording now consigned to my Paris Soundscapes Archive but I hope they give you at least a flavour of the sonic tapestry hidden below the monumental Grande Arche de la Défense. In Part 2, I shall explore the sounds up on the surface.
Even with this extensive transport facility complete with its coffee shops and fast food outlets, travelling to and from La Défense during the rush hour each day can be a grim experience. I know, I did it for thirteen years!
PARIS TRAMWAYS DATE BACK to the mid-nineteenth century with the first city tram route opening in 1855. At its peak in the 1920s, the tramway network incorporated some 122 lines and upwards of 1,000 km of track. By the 1930s though, the internal combustion engine reigned supreme and the number of motor cars and motor buses on the roads signalled the end of the tramways. The last of the tram lines in Paris, Porte de Saint-Cloud to Porte de Vincennes, closed in 1937, and the last line in the entire Paris agglomeration, running between Le Raincy and Montfermeil, ended service in 1938.
Carte postale ancienne éditée par Cormault, N°136 Paris
Paris and the surrounding region had to wait for almost sixty years before a new tramway network began to appear with a new generation of trams. First came Line T1, opened in 1992 followed by Line T2 in 1997, Lines T3 and T4 in 2006, Lines T5 and T7 in 2013 and Lines T6 and T8 in 2014. Some of these lines have already been extended and further extensions are planned. And two further new lines are planned: Line T9 is scheduled to open in 2020 and Line T10 in 2021.
Of the nine tramways currently operating in the Île-de-France region (Line T3a and T3b count as two separate lines) most operate within the suburbs around Paris, with only two lines, T3a and T3b, running entirely within the city limits, although line T2 does so for part of its route.
One of the suburban tramways is Line T8, the latest tramway to be opened, and I went to take a ride on it.
Image courtesy of RATP
After a trial running of four weeks without passengers, Line T8 opened in December 2014. The tramway runs 8·5 km north from Saint-Denis – Porte de Paris to Delaunay-Belleville, where it splits into two branches, terminating at Villetaneuse-Université and Epinay-Orgemont. There are a total of 17 stops and, in another example of RATP’s joined-up thinking, interchange is provided with metro Line 13, tram line T1 and RER Line C.
I caught a tram at Saint-Denis and travelled to Epinay-Orgemont in Epinay-sur-Seine.
The journey took 22 minutes and included 13 stops, the other 4 stops being on the branch line to Villetaneuse.
Villetaneuse is planned to be a future station on the new Tangental North line, a €1.5 billion suburban tram-train line that will interchange with existing SNCF Transilien trains, trams, metro, and Réseau Express Régional (RER) lines A, B, C, D and E. This line is scheduled for completion in 2023.
Epinay-sur-Seine is no stranger to trams. The tramway Enghien (Cygne d’Enghien) – Trinité (Église de la Trinité à Paris) was opened by the Compagnie des Tramways électriques du Nord-Parisiens on 26th September 1900. The line survived until March 1935 when it was replaced by a bus route.
Le Tramway Enghien-Trinité sur la route nationale à Épinay, avant 1912
I didn’t have to wait long for a tram for my return journey from Epinay to Saint-Denis. The trams run every six minutes, although along the stretch from the Delaunay-Belleville stop, where the two branch lines meet, to Saint-Denis they run every three minutes.
Tram Line 8 – Epinay-Orgemont to Saint-Denis – Porte de Paris:
Tram Line 8 operates with a fleet of 20 low-floor Alstom Citadis trams assembled at Alstom’s La Rochelle factory. Each tram is 32 metres long and 2.4 metres wide, made up of five sections with capacity for 200 passengers. The trams include air-conditioning, CCTV, a passenger counting system and audiovisual passenger information. Some 55,000 passengers use Tram Line 8 every day, which amounts to 16 million passengers per year.
Constructing Tram Line 8 was a formidable task. The project, implemented by GCF, Generale Costruzioni Ferroviarie, in a consortium set-up with Esaf and Laforet, had to contend with a route running through a densely populated residential area characterised by a high volume of traffic. During construction, efforts were made to reduce pollution involving dust, gas and noise, as well as achieving maximum vibration reduction. Steps were also taken in advance over the entire length of the line to ensure the physical protection of trees by masking them to safeguard against the possible effects of shock caused by mechanical equipment.
Today, the tramway network around Paris amounts to some 105km of track with more still to come. The tramway network may be far short of its peak in the 1920s but riding today’s trams is a convenient and comfortable way to travel and I thoroughly recommend it.
Tram Line 8 Terminus at Saint-Denis – Porte de Paris
IT’S BEEN A HECTIC few years for the tramway system in and around Paris. In 2012, the tram lines T1, T2 and T3 were extended, in 2013 two new tram lines were opened, T5 and T7, and now, in December 2014, two more new tram lines come on stream. On Saturday 13th December, tram line T6 was opened and on Tuesday 16th December it’s the turn of tram line T8.
I went to the opening of tram line T7 in November last year and last Saturday I braved the cold and the heavy rain and went to the opening of the new tram line T6.
Le ville en tram – the inauguration logo for tram line T6
At the moment, tram-line T6 runs for 13 km from the Châtillon-Montrouge Métro station (Métro Line 13) to the tram stop Robert Wagner in Vélizy-Villacoublay passing through the communes of Châtillon, Clamart, Fontenay-aux-Roses, Meudon and Vélizy-Villacoublay, although Montrouge, Malakoff and Le Plessis-Robinson will also benefit from their proximity to this service. When the tram line is completed in the Spring of 2016, two further tram stops and a subterranean section of line will extend the tram line a further 1.6 km to Viroflay.
The tramline T6 route
Tram line T6 has been designed to ensure easy transfers to Métro Line 13 (Châtillon-Montrouge), RER Line ‘C’ (Viroflay Rive Gauche), SNCF’s Transilien service (Viroflay Rive Gauche and Viroflay Rive Droite) as well as to several bus services at almost every tram stop.
The other transport connections (click on the image to enlarge)
Building a new tramway is a very lengthy process and the planning for tram line T6 began back in the year 2000. A proposal was put forward and accepted by the Syndicat des transports d’Île-de-France (STIF) in 2002. Preliminary studies and designs were carried out during 2002-2005 followed by a public announcement in 2006.
The cost of the project is around €385m excluding taxes and the cost of rolling stock and the project has been funded by the State (16%), Île-de-France (50%), Conseil général des Hauts-de-Seine (20%), Conseil général des Yvelines (13%) and RATP (1%).
For the rolling stock, a contract worth €171.6m was awarded for the supply of 28 Translohr STE 6 type trams.
Translohr STE 6 type trams at Châtillon-Montrouge on tram line T6. Note that there is only one rail per tram and the trams run on rubber tyres.
Each tram can accommodate 250 passengers, 60 of whom can be seated and the low floor facilitates easy access for passengers with restricted mobility. Other features include air conditioning, display screens and sound announcement systems.
Tram line T6 operates from 5h 30 to 00h 30 seven days a week. The journey time is 40 minutes and the trams operate every four minutes during peak hours and seven minutes during non-peak hours. It is expected that some 82,000 passengers will use the line each day.
Arriving at Châtillon-Montrouge Métro station last Saturday morning I emerged into an unpleasant winter chill and very heavy rain. I’d arrived about half an hour before the opening ceremony was due to begin so I had time to look round. I came upon two brand new trams parked ready to be moved into position at the appointed time.
I also discovered that the TV station, France 3, was covering the event ‘live’ so I was interested in taking a close look at their outside broadcast scanner …
But everyone else seemed more interested in the TV personalities on parade …
As I walked past the TV tent with its attendant big screen TV outside relaying the live broadcast to those standing in the rain I came upon the Franco-Brazilian drummers, Batucada Zalindé. While they were playing, the two trams I’d seen earlier were manoeuvring into position by the station platforms ready for the opening ceremony.
The opening of the new tram line was preceded by speeches from the assembled dignitaries, including Jean-Loup Metton, maire de Montrouge and vice-président du Conseil général en charge des Transports, Yann Jounot, préfet des Hauts-de-Seine, Jean-Paul Huchon, président du Conseil régional d’Île-de-France, président du Conseil du STIF, Pierre Bédier, président du Conseil général des Yvelines, and Pierre Mongin, président-directeur général de la RATP.
And then it was off to fight my way through the crowds to clamber aboard the first passenger-carrying tram to leave from Châtillon-Montrouge to Vélizy-Villacoublay on the now opened tram line T6.
Tram Line T6 – Opening:
Inside the inaugural tram much later in the day when the crowds had subsided
After leaving the Châtillon-Montrouge terminus, tram line T6 makes a sharp left turn and then heads off up a hill. I was impressed by the speed of the tram as it climbed the hill. The Translohr STE 6 trams can reach a speed of 40 km/h but I think the average speed on tram line T6 is around 20 km/h.
Forty minutes after leaving Châtillon-Montrouge we arrived at the tram stop, Robert Wagner, the current terminus in Vélizy-Villacoublay.
Not all the passengers who got on at Châtillon-Montrouge travelled the full length of the line but those of us that did alighted at the Robert Wagner tram stop. There had been an opening ceremony at this end of the line too so some people went off to the marquees that had been set up to see what was on offer. I on the other hand, crossed the tram line and caught the next tram back to Châtillon-Montrouge.
I recorded the sounds inside the trams for the full length of both my outward and return journeys. These of course are historic sounds – the sounds inside the trams on their very first day of operation and so they have been consigned to my Paris Soundscapes Archive and, in due course, they will make their way to my Paris Soundscapes Collection in the sound archives of the British Library.
To give you flavour of what it sounds like inside a very full tram on tram line T6, here is part of the recording I made on the return journey, the five-stop section from Division Leclerc to Châtillon-Montrouge.
Tram Line T6 – Division Leclerc to Châtillon-Montrouge :
And when I arrived back at the Châtillon-Montrouge terminus the festivities were still under way, a band was playing – and it was still raining!
Tram line T6 has its own Twitter account which provides passengers with traffic updates: @T6_RATP
When the new Tram Line T8 opens on Tuesday 16th December, the Paris tramway system, extending into the Île-de-France, will stretch for 105 km. From the opening of Tram Line 1 in 1992 to the opening of Tram Lines 6 and 8 in 2014, a huge amount of money has been invested in the tramway system. And there’s the prospect of more to come.
Tram Line T9 is the planned line between Paris Porte de Choisy and the city of Orly, expected in 2020, followed by Tram Line T10 from Antony to Clamart in the southwest suburbs of Paris, expected in 2021.
AFTER THIRTEEN YEARS OF PLANNING, four years of construction and a total expenditure of some 360 million Euros the new Paris Tramway T7 opened for business on Saturday 16th November.
Designed to extend the public transport system between the departments of Val-de-Marne and Essonne, Tramway T7 runs from the Métro station Villejuif – Louis Aragon in the commune of Villejuif in the southern suburbs of Paris to Porte de l’Essonne in the commune of Athis-Mons close to Orly international airport.
The route of Tramway T7
In the middle of last week I went to Villejuif to watch and record the final testing of the trams before they entered service. This testing began in May this year but for the last month the trams and the crews have been operating a full service without passengers – a month-long dress rehearsal to ensure that the trams entered revenue service seamlessly.
Final testing of the trams at Villejuif:
On Saturday the scene at Villejuif was very different as I and many hundreds of others arrived for the inauguration of Tramway T7.
The crowd gathered and the band played …
The refreshments and entertainment were free …
And Claudine Cordillot, Mayor of Villejuif made a speech.
The inauguration of tramway T7 :
The planning for this new tramway began as far back as the year 2000 when a process of consultation with the local communities began and then, in 2002, the Syndicat des transports d’Île-de-France (STIF) gave their approval in principle for the project. STIF is the organisation that controls the Paris public transport system and coordinates all the different transport companies operating in Île-de-France including RATP and SNCF.
A public inquiry was held at the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004 to inform the local communities of the proposed plans and to hear any concerns or objections they had.
The proposed project was approved in December 2006 by RATP, STIF and the Conseil général du Val-de-Marne, the key local authority involved. In 2008, an amended proposal addressing some cost and technical issues was brought forward and this was approved in October of that year. This approval left the way clear for the preliminary construction work to begin in 2009.
In parallel with the construction of the tramway work was also begun on the redevelopment of the adjacent RD7, formerly Route National 7, the trunk road that runs from Paris to Italy.
The funding required for Tramway T7 was considerable:
€52 million to acquire the necessary land;
€44 million for the initial studies and project management;
€223 million for the construction of the tramway and the redevelopment of RD7 and,
€48 million for the new rolling stock.
This money was funded by:
The French Government (€10 million), represented by the Prefecture of the Ile-de-France;
Région Ile-de-France (€234 million) – in pursuance of its objective to develop transport links between suburbs;
The Conseil général du Val-de-Marne (€54 million) – for the redevelopment of the RD7 road;
The Conseil général de l’Essonne (€12 million);
Communauté d’agglomération “Les Portes de l’Essonne” (€2.4 million) – for the redevelopment of the south side of the airport platform;
RATP (€5 million) – they operate of the tramway.
STIF – who controlled whole project. The €48 million cost of the rolling stock is funded by STIF in a RATP / STIF leasing agreement.
Tramway T7 runs for 11.2 km from the Métro station Villejuif – Louis Aragon to Athis-Mons – Porte de l’Essonne. There are 19 trams operating the route which means that the average waiting time at any of the 18 stations is just 5 to 6 minutes on a weekday and a little longer at weekends and public holidays. The average travel time for the whole route is 31 minutes. The tramway can handle 30,000 passengers a day.
In yet another example of the joined-up thinking used by STIF and RATP, all but two of the 18 stations on this tramway have connections, or correspondances in French, with one or more bus routes.
Image courtesy of Alstom
The trams used on Tramway T7 are the Citadis 302 trams built by the French company Alstom. These trams are not only energy and noise efficient but their low-floor design gives easy access to wheelchairs, pushchairs and people with reduced mobility. Capable of a maximum speed of around 70 km/h the trams on tramway T7 run at an average speed somewhere around 20 km/h.
Inside the trams great attention has been given to both the signage and to the announcements. The signage in the roof tells passengers at each terminus precisely when the tram is due to depart. Throughout the journey the signage displays the name of the current stop and the connections that can be made there, the name of the next stop and the time it will take to get there as well as the time it will take to get to the next terminus.
Song Phanakem, the man behind the voices on the Paris mass transit system, has produced exceptionally good announcements for Tramway T7. He has used human voices of course and each tram stop announcement appears twice each time with a different intonation. The announcements are very clear and played at exactly the right volume – not too loud and not too soft. Only occasionally, in a very crowed tram with passenger’s voices raised more than usual, are the announcements a little hard to hear but the quality is such that even then they are not subsumed altogether. An interesting new feature is that at every tram stop there is an announcement to inform new passengers of the direction in which the tram is travelling. I can see this being very useful especially for international visitors travelling to or from Orly international airport who may be unfamiliar with this tram system.
Of course, I couldn’t possibly go to the inauguration of Tramway T7 and not ride on a tram especially since for the weekend of the 16th/17th November it was completely free! And I was very lucky because not only did I ride on a brand new tram, it was a very special new tram – the 1,500th Alstom Citadis tram in worldwide circulation.
I travelled all the way from Villejuif – Louis Aragon to Athis-Mons – Porte de l’Essonne – and back again. And, of course, I couldn’t make those journeys without recording them for my Paris Soundscapes Archive.
For those of you who have the time to listen, here are the sounds I captured on the outward journey.
Villejuif – Louis Aragon to Athis-Mons – Porte de l’Essonne – the complete journey:
While the creation and opening of Tramway T7 is impressive the story is not over. By 2018 it is planned that the tramway will be extended to Juvisy-sur-Orge and looking even further into the future, by 2020 it should connect to the new planned Métro line 15 at Villejuif- Louis Aragon. I think this is all good news especially since STIF and RATP seem to manage these new developments largely in harmony with the neighbouring local communities and in sympathy with environmental concerns.
Villejuif – The end of the line
And if you think that a tramway can’t have a life of its own, Tramway T7 has its own blog!
PARIS TRAM LINE 3, the orbital tram route or, the tramway des Maréchaux, has been extended and is open for business.
Tram Line 3 follows the site of the old military road that ran along the inside of the fortified Thiers Wall, the last defensive wall surrounding Paris built around 1840. The wall was demolished in the 1920s, enabling the building of a series of boulevards encircling the city each named after Marshals of Napoleon’s French Empire, and consequently called the Boulevards des Maréchaux. These boulevards run just inside the city limits with the Boulevard Périphérique, the wall of traffic that surrounds Paris, running just beyond them on the site of the former Thiers Wall itself.
Tram Line 3 has been running along part of this route, from Pont du Garigliano to Porte d’Ivry, since December 2006. Work began on extending the route in 2009, adding 14.3km of track and 24 new tram stops, and the extended line was opened on 15th December 2012.
The extended route heads northeast from Porte d’Ivry, crosses the Seine to an interchange with Métro Line 1 at Porte de Vincennes. It continues north through the Lilas district where it connects with metro lines 3bis, 11 and 7bis, then curves westwards to terminate at Porte de la Chapelle, where it connects with Métro Line 12.
The cost is said to be €651·9m, of which €433·6m has been funded by the city and €218·3m by Ile-de-France. The city has contributed a further €149m for urban enhancements, whilst RATP has funded the 25 additional Citadis 402 trams at a cost of €77m.
When the line extension was opened, Tram Line T3 was divided into two separate services, the existing route becoming Line T3a, linking Pont du Garigliano with Porte de Vincennes, while Line T3b covers the eastern and north eastern section from Porte de Vincennes to Porte de la Chapelle.
The Paris City Council has also now given approval for a further 4.7 km extension of T3 from Porte de la Chapelle to Porte d’Asnières expected to open in 2017. It is envisaged that a further extension from Porte d’Asnières to Porte Maillot is possible but, as yet, there is no talk of an extension from Porte Maillot to Pont du Garigliano to complete the circle around Paris.
Shortly after the new extension opened I went to have a look. I travelled from the very smart tram stop at Porte de Vincennes to the end of the current extension, Porte de la Chapelle and I was very impressed.
The trams are the Citadis 402 model built in France by Alstom. They have a low-floor ensuring easy access for people with reduced mobility and they are equipped with air-conditioning and CCTV. Each tram comprises seven modules with a total capacity of 304 people. Six asynchronous motors with a rated output of 120 kilowatts drive each tram and the 750 volts of power required is supplied by overhead pantograph.
The trams travel at up to 20km/h (although they can theoretically travel much faster) and they take priority at all road junctions. They are extremely quiet thanks, in part, to the tramway being grassed over for a good part of the route. This helps to reduce vibration and noise to both those inside and outside the tram. Incidentally, to save water the grass is watered automatically at a variable rate depending on the weather.
The trams run every four to five minutes during peak hours and six to eight minutes off-peak, Monday to Friday. On Saturday, the interval between trams varies from six to nine minutes during the day and seven to ten minutes on Sundays and holidays.
And now for the really exciting news …
For a long time I’ve taken a great interest in the sounds of the Paris mass transit system and so I was especially excited to hear that new, very innovative, tram announcements are being incorporated on Tram Line 3 to coincide with the extension of the line.
The City of Paris and RATP (the Paris mass transit authority) have commissioned selected contemporary artists to create special artworks along the route of Tram Line 3. One of the artists, Rodolphe Burger, former leader of the French rock band Kat Onoma, and head of La Compagnie Rodolphe Burger, was asked to come up with an innovative way of announcing the names of the tram stops. RATP stipulated that it was important that each announcement should have two inflexions and that the sounds should be heard but not be intrusive.
The work took two years to complete and Rodolphe Burger and his team have now come up with 42 different short melodies for each of the 42 tram stops on Tram Line 3 and each of the tram stop names are announced by different voices. The idea was to mix different type of voices, male and female, from any age, any background, any accent, including the occasional celebrity! A call for volunteers met with a large response especially among people living near the line. In total, 602 different voices were recorded.
So when you travel on Tram Line 3, you never know which voices you will actually hear, only the melodies remain the same.
Thanks to RATP, I am able to share with you some examples of the sounds that Rodolphe Burger and his team created in their original form – before they made their way onto the trams.
Examples of the tram stop announcements:
Sounds courtesy of RATP
And it’s not only in sound where RATP is innovative. Of the eighteen tram stops on Tram Line 3b between Porte de Vincennes and Porte de la Chapelle, seven of them are named after prominent women:
(Marie de) Miribel; founder of the hospitalières de la Croix Saint-Simon,
Séverine; writer, journalist and feminist,
Adrienne Bolland; French aviator and the first woman to fly over the Andes between Chile and Argentina,
Delphine Seyrig; Stage and film actress and film director,
Ella Fitzgerald; American jazz singer, the “Queen of Jazz”,
Rosa Parks; African-American civil rights activist and,
Colette Besson; French athlete and winner of the 400 m at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
In order to give you a snapshot of what the new announcements sound like from inside a busy tram, I’ve extracted these seven tram stop names from my journey for you to listen to.
Seven station names:
And, if you would like a more immersive experience, why not join me for the whole journey from Porte de Vincennes to Porte de la Chapelle. The journey takes thirty-five minutes and you can hear all eighteen tram stop announcements in real time just as I and all the other passengers heard them.
Porte de Vincennes to Porte de la Chapelle:
With grateful thanks to Song Phanakem, the man responsible for the sound identity of RATP, whose help is always invaluable and much appreciated.
TODAY, THE TRAMS IN PARIS are modern, sleek and efficient but their history goes back to the middle of the nineteenth-century, predating the Paris Metro by almost fifty years.
From 1855 until the end of the 1930’s, Paris enjoyed an extensive tramway network. In the early days the trams were horse powered.
Horse trams though presented a number of challenges. They were relatively slow and several teams of horses were required for each tram each day – not to mention the tons of horse manure littering the streets. Mechanical traction was the answer.
By 1887, trams powered by compressed air had arrived in Paris. Steam driven trams were introduced in the 1880’s and 1890’s but, by the end of the nineteenth-century, electrification of the trams was underway.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries trams were prolific in Paris but the advent of the motorcar and motorised buses, without the need for costly infrastructure, marked the beginning of the end for the tram. The last of the tram routes in Paris closed in 1957.
But that is not the end of the story. The increasing need to connect Paris with its suburbs has led to the re-birth of the Paris tram.
Of these tram lines the one that I’m most familiar with is Line T2 which runs south from La Défense to Porte de Versailles. Operated by RATP, the Paris mass transit authority, Line T2 is 13.7 km long, has seventeen stations and is used by some 20 million people a year. Each tram can carry 440 people.
As with the Paris Metro, the names of the stations evoke images from French history.
Stopping at stations like Jaques-Henri Lartigue (French photographer and painter), Henri Farman (French aviator and aircraft designer) and Suzanne Lenglen (French tennis player and winner of 31 Championship titles between 1914 and 1926) seem to add colour to the journey.
And again, like the Metro, RATP have taken trouble with the sound of the announcements inside the tram. Each station name is announced twice and at the terminus the announcements appear in several languages each spoken by native speakers.
Inside a tram on Line T2 from the station Henri Farman to Porte de Versailles:
Today’s Paris trams are remarkably quiet both when listening inside and from the outside. In fact, from the outside, it’s much easier to hear the sound of the traffic than it is to hear the sound of the tram.
A Tram at Porte de Versailles:
The new generation of Paris trams are far removed from their nineteenth-century ancestors. Quiet, sleek, efficient and comfortable they are an integral part of the Paris public transport network.