Back in 2009, I embarked on a week-long trip to Belgium & France. During my stay in Paris, I became fascinated with the city’s subway system. The system, unlike many here in the US, operates rubber-tyred subway trains. That’s right, the trains run on rubber tires (although each outside tire is reinforced by a steel wheel on the inner axle to allow the train to run if a tire goes flat). One such example is pictured below.
Pictured here is the MP 89CC rubber-tyred subway train. For those of you who may not be familiar with the naming conventions that the Parisian transit authority (the RATP) uses for their subway fleet, I have a brief description in the next paragraph. Notice in the photo that the train is equipped with rubber tires on the outside of each axle. Behind the tires is a steel wheel, which again helps keep the train on track if a tire goes flat. One of the reasons why the RATP and many other transit agencies use rubber tyred subway trains is because they tend to have a much better grip to the tracks than the traditional steel wheeled trains. This is especially the case on lines where there are steep grades because traditional trains tend to have a harder time braking. The rubber tyred trains on the other hand can stop in a similar nature to that of a car or bus.
For those of you who again, may not know the naming conventions used for the Paris subway trains; MP stands for…not military police, but for Matérial Pneumatique (or Pneumatic Material). 89 stands for the year 1989, by which is the year this particular trainset was designed. In France, the year that corresponds to a particular subway rolling stock is denoted by the year the stock was designed, rather than the year that the stock goes into service (The MP 89CC actually went into service in 1997). Finally, CC stands for Conduite Conducteur, which means that the train is manually operated by a conductor. There is a version of the MP 89 that is fully automated (called the MP 89CA – CA meaning Conduite Automatique), which runs on Line 14 – Paris’ first fully automated subway line (meaning that the trains basically drive themselves through a sophisticated computer system). Line 1 is also fully automated, using rolling stock called the MP 05 (Matérial Pneumatique 2005) – which is based off the MP 89 (and thus looks identical to their older counterparts). The MP 89CC stock used to operate on Line 1 prior to its automated conversion. They now run on Line 4, which happens to be my favorite of all the subway lines in Paris.
So now to the main point of this post; the Paris subway has reached a historic point in its over 100 year old life. As mentioned, Line 1 was just converted over to a fully automated system, making it the second such line in the network. This allowed the new automated MP 05 rolling stock to go into service and the manually driven MP 89CC stock be transferred to Line 4. In-turn the MP 89CC replaced the MP 59, which is the oldest operating rubber-tyred rolling stock in the network. There are still 24 of these trains operating on Line 11, however this may not be for much longer, as they are eventually slated to be replaced as well. Another change in rolling stock occurred on Line 2 between 2008 and 2011 when the oldest steel-wheeled stock was replaced by a new fleet. The older trains, known as the MF 67 (MF meaning Matérial Fer, or Iron Material, 1967) were replaced with the MF 01 (meaning Matérial Fer, or Iron Material 2001). This cascading is now occurring on Line 5, where there are now more MF 01 stock than there are MF 67 stock. This transition will continue into Line 9 beginning in the summer of 2013. Additionally, there should be some news soon as to what will become of the MF 67 stock that currently operate on Lines 3b, 10, and 12, as these trains had their mid-life refurbishment between 1995 and 2000 and are predicted to near the end of their useful lives by around 2025.
So to summarize; we have the following rolling stock transition:
Line 1: MP 89CC to MP 05
Line 4: MP 59 to MP 89CC
Line 5: MF 67 to MF 01
It will be interesting to see in the coming years what the Paris subway will look like. I also want to note that several new stations are set to open this year, allowing the network to serve specific suburban areas that were previously unreachable via the subway.