Is this the future for public transport in French cities?

The northern French city of Lille is testing an aerial railway system that’s said to be cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than any existing tram or subway. Could it be the solution to increasing traffic congestion and complicated construction plans in French cities?

Is this the future for public transport in French cities?
Photo: Supraways

It’s called Supraways, an over-ground, solar-powered take on the subway that will carry seven to nine passengers in each of its carriages at speeds of 50km/h.

According to its designers, the network would operate 10 metres above ground on a series of interconnected city bridges, with a separation of 35 metres between each pillar.

It’ll reportedly be cheaper to build and to operate than any new metro system, without even the need for a conductor in each Supraway.

So is all this futuristic transport talk actually based on tangible facts?

The French city of Lille will soon have the answer.

Hauts-de-France’s Real Estate Federation met with the head of Supraways in late September, agreeing to fund a feasibility study for a ‘supra’ line between Lille city centre and Lesquin airport seven kilometres to the south east.

Initial estimates point to it costing €10 to 12 million for each kilometre built, far lower than for any new metro line (priced between €100 to €300 million) or another tramline (almost €25 million).

Another line connecting Lille to the towns of Douai and Lens (both about 40km away) is included in the proposal as well.

Lille’s Grand Committee and the city’s Chamber of Industrial Commerce (CCI) have also backed the construction of the first Supraways lines but the final decision rests in the hands of Hauts-de-France’s Regional Council.

Despite ranking as one of the best cities to live and work in France according to our readers, Lille has struggled with traffic problems for some years now.

The city itself has only around 230,000 residents but it’s the financial hub for a metropolis of 1.1 million, which helps to explain why every day over 300,000 workers commute by car into Lille.

READ ALSO: Why Lille is France's most underrated city

Previous measures such as the introduction of an “inverse” toll (which would have paid drivers who commuted on public transport and charge those who didn’t) were dropped due to their unpopularity.

Lille is one of the seven French cities together with Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Marseilles, Toulon and Nice where traffic pollution has forced local governments to take action on days where nitrogen dioxide levels were a public health hazard.

The introduction of a supraway line in Lille could see air quality improve in the northern industrial city as the vehicles run entirely on the energy produced by the solar panels each pod/carriage has on its roof, with no carbon dioxide or air pollution.

Another factor that may help convince Lille commuters to back the supraway is the fact that each seven to nine-person shuttle takes its passengers directly to their preselected destination without other stops.

Travellers would simply have to choose the right pod to travel in, making their trip time three times shorter than in any other transportation mode.

“The exploration of a second level of transport has already begun,” reads Supraways's website in reference to other aerial train networks in Bangkok, Dortmund, Miami and other cities around the world.

“Now it's a case of exploiting this trend intelligently.” 

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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.