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Paris tackles its traffic transformation

 

Paris is converting to clean transport. So transport operator RATP also relies on modern buses: they are reliable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective. A report from the city on the Seine.

Ein Mann geht vor zwei Bussen

Master of the fleet Marc Lemercier is technical manager at RATP and responsible for maintaining the city buses in Paris. Almost a quarter of the fleet he manages consists of buses from MAN – a total of around 1100 vehicles. The RATP manager is currently preparing the bus depot for conversion to electric drive. 

It is a rare sight in the centre of Paris, where otherwise the buildings are packed closely together: a large, empty space secured by gates and barriers opens up to the north of Montmartre hill. It is adjoined all around by typical old Parisian buildings. The inhabitants have views from their balconies onto rows of numbered parking spaces, each as long as three cars. This is the Rue Championnet, where the public Parisian transport company Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) maintains one of its 25 bus depots. Every morning, around 250 buses swarm from the bus park for deployment in the French capital. Now, during the day, there are still a few of them ready for deployment in the jade-white-dark-grey RATP livery, including numerous MAN Lion’s City buses with diesel, natural gas or hybrid drive.

RATP operates its central bus workshop for Paris right next to this depot. In its enormous workshop, an 18-metre-long articulated MAN bus is floating in the air for inspection, raised by three huge lifting jacks. Only the chassis remains from some other vehicles, the rest has just been removed. “We have specialists here who can practically rebuild a bus in its entirety”, says Marc Lemercier with pride. He is employed at RATP as manager of the “Matériel Roulant Bus” division and is responsible for the acquisition of and technical specifications for buses. 

Lemercier knows from his day-to-day work: the specific urban structure in Paris presents public passenger transport with extreme challenges. Because the city, whose metropolitan area houses twelve million people, is designed to be highly centralised – everything gravitates towards the centre. The inner city is consequently one of the most densely populated in Europe, with twice as many inhabitants per square metre as Berlin. This is the destination for many RATP passengers, in particular via star-shaped underground stations (metro), suburban railways (RER) and ring-shaped tramlines.

Everything gravitates towards the centre

Buses act as fast feeders and flexible connection elements within this structure – the farther away from the centre, the more frequent. “That is why our buses are very important to us”, explains RATP manager Lemercier: “They form a network that collects passengers and takes them to other modes of transport.” RATP buses transport a total of more than a billion passengers each year. 

Their number will continue to increase. Because traffic volume is on the rise – not only in Paris, but in many cities in Europe and around the world. More and more people are crowding into the urban centres. The population is growing. Commuter numbers are increasing. Delivery traffic is booming – not least due to online trade. City tourism is also continuing to thrive. A resilient public transport system is required to prevent major cities degenerating into permanent gridlock. Bus and train. 

Straßenbild mit mehreren Menschen

Grandiose facade The Opera Garnier, one of the city's two opera houses, is part of the centre's distinctive architecture.

Paris is the pioneer and role model for other cities. RATP has realised a traffic concept that is well received by Parisians. Calculations by economist Frederic Héran from the University of Lille I indicate that the proportion of tram, bus and train journeys within city traffic increased by 30 percent between 1990 and 2015. No wonder more people in Paris use public transport than almost anywhere else in Europe, according to EU statistics office Eurostat. Management consultancy Deloitte comes to similar conclusions. They praise Paris in their “City Mobility Index”, in particular for its versatile and efficient passenger transport system.

There is political will behind such success. Especially the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is promoting the switch to bus and train. She told newspaper “Journal du Dimanche” that she wants the city to “approximately half the number of environmentally harmful private cars”. Because these are responsible for a large part of the emissions. She considers the transformation toward clean public transport to be an “absolute priority”. 

State-owned RATP will support this transformation with attractive offerings. This includes modern, eco-friendly and low-noise vehicles as well as an efficient network of routes. Just last April, the public transport provider, Île-de-France Mobilités and the City of Paris reformed the entire bus network in the Paris metropolitan area, which consists of 300 routes and more than 12,000 stops, and created new lines and routes to adapt it to current demand.

Close intervals

You see the jade-white-dark-grey city buses constantly and everywhere in Paris. RATP has a total of 4700 of them. They circulate in the dense traffic around the Place Charles de Gaulle, sweep almost silently past the picturesque Jardin du Luxembourg park or thread through the narrow alleyways of the old Marais quarter. The intervals are close and the buses partly use their own traffic lanes to ensure adherence to their timetables.

Through dense traffic View from a moving MAN Lion's City on the streets of Paris. 

On five bus routes through Paris


Anyone standing by the side of the road in the French capital will not have to wait long to see a MAN model. Because MAN is one of the major suppliers to the Parisian public transport company. Almost a quarter of the RATP bus fleet consists of buses from MAN – a total of around 1100 vehicles. These include various designs of the MAN Lion’s City: with diesel, natural gas and hybrid drive, as a 12-metre standard or 18-metre articulated bus. The transport operator uses all available drive types and lengths of this successful model to transport its passengers in a reliable, environmentally friendly manner and at the lowest possible costs. The MAN Lion’s City will in future be available at up to 18.75 metres in length, and as a fully-electric version from the second half of 2020. There was an opportunity to experience all models of the latest generation of urban bus live at Busworld Europe 2019.

The international offshoot RATP Dev relies on the Lion’s City M. There are 242 midi buses of this type driving in the Saudi capital Riyadh, among others. MAN is currently producing a new batch of natural gas buses for RATP. These will be in service from 2020.

“RATP is a demanding customer with plenty of experience and expertise”, says Stéphane Lorho, the responsible Key Account Manager at MAN in France. “This customer comes to us with its own conceptions and ideas. Jointly we have already pursued multiple projects and developed tailor-made technical details.” 

The “Bus2025” project

The Paris public transport company makes extremely intensive use of its buses. “We have vehicles that have driven a million kilometres by the end of their life cycle”, says RATP Manager Marc Lemercier in the workshop, knocking on the side panel of a vehicle. He reports that his employer usually buys an average of one new bus every day. Currently this value has doubled – to two new buses every day. 

The reason: RATP is currently converting to electric and gas drives as part of the “Bus2025” project. This is intended to spare the nerves and health of residents in the centre of Paris, because it curbs noise emissions and air pollution. “It is important for us to use the best available drives to minimise the emission load as far as possible”, emphasises Lemercier. The associated conversion of the bus depot during ongoing operation is “almost comparable to a revolution”.

This refers mainly to the transition to electric mobility, which represents a completely new drive technology for RATP. The transport company has already taken its first electric buses into service. Two-thirds of the fleet is to run with an electric drive by 2025. RATP wants its buses to run continuously throughout the day, so without interim charging stops.

MAN too is relying on just this concept with its Lion’s City E. This new electric bus, which was also presented at Busworld, is equipped with especially high-performance batteries: it will have a reliable range of 200 kilometres, in good conditions up to 270 kilometres. This bus should go into series production in the second half of 2020, first in the 12-metre version, followed six months later by the 18-metre model. “This will give transport operators like RATP the opportunity of fully emission-free city driving – and the extensive range means they won’t have to plan new routes”, says Isabel Jeschek, Product Launch Manager for the Lion’s City E. “It would be hard to design a more convenient and flexible transition to the mobility of the future.”

Whether with diesel, natural gas or very soon the completely emission-free electric motor: buses offer solutions for the mobility of today and tomorrow. This triad of drives enables local authorities to realise traffic concepts according to their needs. It improves the quality of life for citizens. This is a real plus, even in a city like Paris, which is already considered to be one of the world’s most liveable.

Text Florian Sievers
Photos Constantin Mirbach

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