Third Paris Metro line introduces driverless trains

A third Paris Metro line has begun the transformation to driverless trains, running its first -fully automated service on Monday.

Third Paris Metro line introduces driverless trains

Line 4 will shortly join lines 1 and 14 as a fully automated services on the Paris Metro network, following extensive work to prepare the infrastructure. 

On Monday, the north-south line ran four automatic services between Porte de Clignacourt and Bagneux-Lucie Aubrac, after several months of testing with empty carriages.

The line, which first opened in 1908, will now begin a steady transfer to becoming fully automated, starting immediately with four automated trains per day, out of the 52 that operate on the line.

Almost half (20) of the trains on the line will be driverless by the end of 2022 and the entire line is expected to be fully automated by the end of 2023, as the RATP promises a “70 percent reduction in delays” according to Paris Secret. 

Line 4 links the northern to the southern suburbs of the French capital, serving three of Paris’ biggest train stations: Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est and Gare Montparnasse, and carrying more than 175,000,000 passengers per year.

READ MORE: How France is preparing for a future of driverless vehicles

Not only do driverless trains avoid problems with staff shortages or absence, they also make it easier for RATP to keep services running when there is a strike.

The first fully automated line in Paris was Line 14, which opened in 1998, while Line 1 went automated in 2012 – on strike days these usually run full services, although they do tend to be extremely busy as commuters switch from strike-hit lines.  

The planned new Metro lines that will connect the city to the ‘greater Paris’ area – lines 15, 16, 17 and 18 – will all be fully automated when they open, although they are not scheduled for completion for some years yet.

Of the existing lines, it seems that Line 13 will be the next to be automated, as transport bosses are currently running a feasibility study. Lines 7, 8 and 9 are also under review for possible automation in the future.

As well as changing the trains and the tracks, automation also requires platform modifications to install automated platform doors to ensure that passengers cannot fall onto the tracks. 

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Paris public transport ticket prices set to rise in 2023

Public transport users in the Paris region may be facing higher prices for tickets and travel passes in the new year, as the region's transport network attempts to meet €950 million in additional costs for 2023.

Paris public transport ticket prices set to rise in 2023

Grappling with rising costs, local authorities for the Paris region are considering raising the price of tickets and the monthly Navigo pass for the capital’s public transport system.

These new fares would come into effect on January 1st, 2023 – although local authorities still have to approve the price rises, which will be put to the vote on December 7th, and the government may yet step in to shield commuters from the sharpest increases. 

According to information leaked to French media, the cost of a single ticket – currently set at €1.90 – could go up by 21 percent – reaching €2.30 in the new year. Paris runs an integrated public transport system which means that tickets can be used on the Metro, tram, bus or RER train services. 

Fans of the 10-ticket carnet could see prices go up to €20.30, a rise from €16.90 for paper ticket purchasers and from €14.90 for mobile phone app and Navigo easy users.

As for the Navigo pass – the monthly rail card – which will be the focus of daily transport users in the Ile-de-France, the region’s President Valérie Pécresse warned that it could jump from the current €75.20 per month to €90. 

Other travel passes are also predicted to see a rise – the weekly Navigo semaine from €22.80 to €31, and the Navigo annual from €827.20 to €990.

READ MORE: Food, fuel and transport: Which prices will rise in France in 2023?

The transport system is considering price rises because it faces €950 million in additional costs for 2023, as a result of energy rates rising and the fact that the transport system will begin owing payments to the French government on their “Covid loans” in the year 2023. 

While the increase in single ride fares to €2.30 could bring in an additional €500 million, the region’s transport operators would still be short by €450 million.

Possible outcomes

In order to avoid sharp increases to fares for passengers, there are three possible solutions that have been put forward by President of the Region, Valérie Pecresse. 

The first option would be a sort of fare shield. This would keep the price of a Navigo pass at €75.20 by relying on the State for various aids, such as transforming the region’s “Covid loans” of €2 billion into a subsidy, spreading out repayments between 2023 and 2036, and lowering the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 10 percent to 5.5 percent, which would bring in €150 million per year. So far these proposals have not been met with support.

The second possible solution would be a uniform increase of 7.5 percent from all contributing parties to the transport system, Île de France Mobilités (IDFM).

Currently, the IDFM is financed in 12 percent by the region, 38 percent by passengers, and 50 percent by contributions from private companies. If a 7.5 percent increase was applied across the board, the impact on passengers would be an increase in the Navigo pass to €80.80 euros per month.

And the third possibility, one that has been championed by Pécresse, would be to increase the contribution of companies in Paris and the inner suburbs to the ‘Mobility’ fund. However, this would have to be done by an amendment to the French government’s Finance Bill, and as of late November, parliament stood opposed to tax increases on these companies.

Without any of these solutions taking place, Pécresse has warned that users would have to withstand a 20 percent price increase, meaning a monthly Navigo pass costing between €90 to €100.

Pécresse has called this possibility “socially unbearable” and “anti-environmental.”

The Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, told RMC on Monday that the ministry will to “everything to avoid an increase to the Navigo pass,” adding that discussions were still underway.

Meanwhile, the government spokesman, Olivier Véran, told France Inter that the government plans to “identify ways and means to avoid an increase as significant as that which has been cited” in discussions with the region.