If Line 4 was fully automated…
As I mentioned in my Sunday posting regarding Line 4 of the Paris subway, I want to go through some possible scenarios that could play out if full automation were to take place. Right now, automation is in the planning books for Line 4, as it is the second busiest line in the Paris Metro system. With the success of Line 14 being a fully automated line, the RATP began to research automating other lines in the system. Possible candidates include Lines 4, 6, 7, 11, and 13 due to their passenger loads. Line 13 is currently being fitted with platform screen doors, making it a likely candidate for automation within the next 15 to 20 years. I would heavily suspect that once Line 4 is complete, Line 13 will be next on the list.
For the meantime, costs have delayed the start of any automation project along Line 4 for the near term. However, there is some recent speculation in the Symbioz forums that automation could be done in conjunction with the extension towards Bagneux, or sometime after the opening. If (and I say IF) this is confirmed, it could bring forth a project timeframe of 2020 to 2025. With that said, here are some factors playing into the consideration.
- Construction of Bagneux extension is set to begin sometime in 2014, with completion projected for 2019.
- The current MP 89CC rolling stock was produced between 1997 and 2000. With the trains on approach towards their 20th anniversary, they will be due in for their mid-life refurbishment between 2017 and 2020.
- The extension of Line 14 in both directions will eventually bring forth a new generation of 8-car trains, possibly forcing the MP 89CA stock to be moved over to Line 4.
- Should the northern extension of Line 4 towards Saint Ouen be built (likely sometime between 2020 and 2030), Line 4 would need further reinforcement of rolling stock, which could equate to the MP 89CA trains supplementing their CC counterparts.
With that in mind, Line 4 currently is not fitted with platform screen doors, which would be necessary for automated operation due to high passenger loads on the line. The automation process would likely be achieved in a similar manner to that of Line 1.
The automation process would also require that all station platforms be the same height as the train floors. This was already completed on a few stations throughout Line 4, but many still have to be worked on. During the Line 1 automation project, all of the station platforms were raised to match the level of the train floors.
Now let’s run through a couple scenarios regarding construction:
- The absolute earliest that we could see automation begin is sometime in 2014 or 2015. But I would say that is a long shot, since nothing official has been announced. Automation takes quite a bit to plan out, and there are many obsticles that need to be cleared before automation can commence on an existing line. This includes what to do with the train operators.
- With the extension to Bagneux set to begin in 2014, I don’t suspect that there will be any construction-type activity in regards to automation along Line 4. I strongly believe that if automation were to occur, it would be at some point after the opening of the Bagneux extension. The estimated timeframe therefore, would be somewhere between 2019 and 2025.
Now let’s run through some scenarios regarding the rolling stock:
- There has been much talk in Symbioz, among other forums, that the MP 89CC could be relocated to either Line 6 or 11. I find it extremely hard to believe that this scenario would occur because station platforms on both lines are only 75 meters long, only enough for 5-car trains. Expanding platforms would be costly, and I understand that commencing such a project is not on the agenda. Another possibility along these lines would to shorten trains from 6 to 5 cars. I find this to be extremely impractical because of increased costs.
- More recently, there has been speculation that upon refurbishment of the MP 89CC stock, that each train could undergo a complete overhaul. Such a modernization effort would include removal of the conductor cabin, an interior and exterior refresh (replacing seats, lighting, wall panels, gangways, new exterior livery, etc), various technological advancements, and perhaps even the addition of air conditioning. I think that this option would be much better in the long term and could even save the RATP and the STIF money.
- The future of the MP 89CA stock on Line 14 is rather unclear once the next generation rolling stock is deployed. Since the MP 89CA are only 6-car trains, the only options I see for them would either be to lengthen trains to 8 cars using MP 05 type shells, or reassign trains to Line 4. Either way, the CA trains would probably be modernized in the same fashion as the MP 89CC stock. Another reason why I can see the MP 89CA going to Line 4 is if Line 4 is extended towars St. Ouen, the MP 89CC stock will not be enough and the MP 89CA could easily fill the void while maintaining uniformity of rolling stock throughout the subway system.
- And speaking of uniformity of rolling stock, the MP 05 could easily be reassigned to Line 1, especially if Line 1 is extended.
- The next-generation rubber-tyred rolling stock will be quite impressive to see, being that they will be 8-car, fully automated trains running on Line 14. However, there will also be a manually-driven stock of 5-cars going to Lines 6 and 11.
With that said, I want to stress that these are only fictional scenarios. Until we hear of the official decision, it’s really anyone’s guess as to what could happen next.