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PARIS TRANSPORT

It’s not the violent protesters, so why are buses in Paris going up in flames?

Four Paris buses have been destroyed by fires in just four months, leading to dramatic scenes on the streets of the French capital. And it's nothing to do with violent protests. So why is it happening?

It's not the violent protesters, so why are buses in Paris going up in flames?
A Paris bus in flames on January 16th in the 5th arrondissement. Photo: Screenshot/BFM TV
The Paris bus system has not had the best time of it lately.
 
Bus stops have been burned to the ground during violent streets protests (see photo below) and in recent months buses have also gone up in flames, but it has nothing to do with anarchist rioters expressing their anger towards the French president.
 
 
 
After seeing the images of the destroyed buses left blackened by flames is seems miraculous that no one was killed in the four fires. 
 
But while no one was lost their lives or was even injured during the blazes, which occurred between November 2017 and February 2018, it's not exactly an advert for the city's transport system.
 
So unsurprisingly Paris transport operator RATP has been keen to find out what was behind the fires, and a new report by the Committee for Hygiene, Security and Working Conditions (CHSCT) revealed by Le Parisien seems to have the answer.
 
It appears the source of the problem is an electrical fault “particularly on diesel buses”. 
 
 
In each incident it was a diesel bus igniting on the streets of the French capital and each time the start of fire was linked to a short circuit — although where the faulty wiring occurred in each case varied. 
 
On November 8th, for example, a fire broke out in the engine compartment of a bus in the 7th arrondissement of Paris on Rue du Bac and after an investigation was held it was put down to the electric wiring. Following that incident, all 901 vehicles of the same model (Iveco diesel) were checked. 
 
Despite these checks however, two of the other incidents occurred on the same model of bus — the fires of February 7th and February 12th. 
 
However, the fire which broke out on the 16th of January on Rue des Ecles in the fifth arrondissement of the French capital (see Tweet below) took place on a Scania diesel bus, with the probe into the incident revealing that it was also down to an electrical fault. 
 
 
A representative of the CHSCT told Le Parisien: “It is incredible that there were fires, especially in such a short space of time. The management is not getting the measure of the problem.
 
“There were other fires that do not appear in this document,” they said, adding that each time there are electrical problems, an audit should be conducted of all the vehicles. 
 
The CHSCT also told Le Parisien that one of the causes of the problem is the “productivity policy” at the company, which they said meant “doing more miles with the vehicles, even if a fault was detected” and that on top of that “there are fewer maintenance workers” meaning that the remaining workers have more to do. 
 
Meanwhile the RATP defended itself, telling Le Parisien that “the overall trend of fire starting on board buses has been decreasing in recent years” and adding that “no injuries were reported, as the evacuations have always been conducted safely thanks to the professionalism of our drivers”.
 
And Paris is not the only city in Europe that has witnessed the phenomenon of combustible buses. Our sister site The Local Italy have reported that there have been nine similar incidents in Rome this year where buses have ignited with passengers on board.
 
It's not terrorism, just Rome's public transport: another bus goes up in flames
 
 

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PARIS TRANSPORT

Roasting Paris commuters complain of ’43C temperatures’ on packed RER trains

A few disgruntled (not to mention boiling) commuters in Paris have recorded the temperatures on the city's much-maligned RER B line during the ongoing heatwave... and their findings certainly make for some uncomfortable reading.

Roasting Paris commuters complain of '43C temperatures' on packed RER trains
Illustration photo: AFP
It's the Paris commuter line everyone loves to hate and now it's taking even more flak after three passengers decided to start recording the sticky conditions of the trains during rush hour as the mercury continues to rise in the French capital.
 
“We do this morning and evening always using the same measuring device at the same stations, at the same time,” said one of the passengers behind the project who travels between Orsay-Ville in the Essonne department of Ile-de-France and Châtelet every day.
 
And the results, which have been posted on one of the passenger's Twitter accounts will put most people off taking the RER B, at least until things calm down a little. 
 
On Wednesday night temperatures reached 37.1C on one train and the thermometer, which also records humidity, showed that in these conditions the temperature actually felt like 43.8C. 
 
 
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How to keep cool during France's heatwave (especially at work)Photo: AFP

“Over time it gets tiring,” said one of the passengers. “In the morning we are already soaked, already sweaty. I make sure I leave work early in the evening to avoid the rush hour. Luckily, I have an understanding employer.”
 
The results may come as a surprise to anyone aware that RER has a “refrigerated ventilation” system which, although not exactly air-conditioning, should help cool the air in the carriages. 
 
According to the RER B official blog, 91.7 percent of the trains on the line come with this ventilation system.  
 
However one of the passengers responsible for recording the temperatures on the trains isn't convinced. 
 
“These are sweeping statements,” he said. “Since the introduction of summer schedules, there are fewer trains, fewer services and therefore more people on the trains. They have also been using the MI84 trains more often… and they have not been renovated [with the ventilation system].”
 
RER B chiefs did acknowledge that travelling conditions were “particularly difficult” in the heatwave and admitted the ventilation systems on the trains “were not optimal in the hot weather”.
 
Staff were on hand however to hand out water at certain stations on the line.
 
 
And it's not just those travelling on RER B who are battling with the heat, with passengers on other RER lines, Transilien trains and the Metro struggling to cope in the current temperatures. 
 
However the situation is set to slowly improve, with transport authority Île-de-France Mobilites planning for 700 new or renovated trains with ventilation systems to hit the network by 2021. 
 
But for commuters they can't come quickly enough. 
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