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!