The MP 89 faces an uncertain future…

Two MP 89CC trains at station Mairie de Montrouge, Line 4. Photo Credit: Minato
Two MP 89CC trains at station Mairie de Montrouge, Line 4. Photo Credit: Minato.

7/12/13: This article, published on 7/11/13, now points out a completion of Line 4 automation by 2019, which is definitely more in line with the completion of the Bagneux extension. There is also a hint in the article that stock from Line 14 (Mp 89CA/MP 05) may be transferred over to Line 4, but still nothing is mentioned about the fate of the MP 89CC.

In June of 2012, I first reported about the cascading of rolling stock throughout the Paris Metro system, specifically that of Lines 1, 4, 5, and 9. A little over a year later, this latest round of cascading is nearing its final phase, with Line 9 set to get brand new MF 2001 trains beginning in September! I’ll be discussing about this upcoming transition, and following up on my previous post about the new look of the Paris subway rolling stock as we know it, in a later post. In this post however, I will be highlighting the uncertainty of my favorite Paris subway rolling stock, the MP 1989.

In April, 2013, the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (or RATP) announced that the Line 4 will become the second subway line to be converted from a manually driven operation to a fully automated operation. This news, which was largely expected by many transit fans throughout Paris, came on the heels of Line 1 beginning full-automatic operation back in February, 2013. Okay, let me be clear on that last sentence; while all 49 automated MP 05 trains have been running on Line 1 since December, 2012, the manually-driven MP 89 stock was still being used as supplemental trains until January, 2013. When the RATP ceased using the MP 89 on Line 1 altogether, they also stopped using the signaling system that had guided conductors along the line since the 1990s. Since February, Communications-based train control (or CBTC) systems have been controlling the spacing and direction of trains along Line 1.

Back to the main point of this post; with the completion of the conversion project along Line 1, it was heavily speculated that Line 4 would be next to receive the same treatment, as Lines 1 and 4 are the two busiest lines in the Paris Metro network. The April announcement was published in this article, which is written in French. So you will need a translating service to read it in English. It is to note that the RATP has stopped short as to when automation will commence, but it is speculated that the conversion process may begin as early as 2014, with the first automated trains operating in 2017 or 2018 2019. This timeframe would fit in line with the projected opening of stations Verdun Sud and Bagneux, which are slated to open around 2019. When these two stations open, they will likely be pre-equipped with platform screen doors, possibly similar to those already equipped along Line 14, which was the first fully-automated line to be built from scratch in the Paris Metro system.

However, with this automation project, comes along the grim reality that the MP 89CC rolling stock does not have much of a future beyond 2020, unless they are either completely revamped with automated-driving components, or moved to another rubber-tyred line (either Line 6 or Line 11). Many possibilities have been raised, but so far we have not received any confirmation from the RATP or the Syndicat des transports d’Île-de-France (or STIF). The only thing that has been confirmed thus far, is that joint studies are being conducted amongst the two agencies to determine the best course of implementing replacement rolling stock (now officially known as the MP 14) along Lines 4, 6, 11, and 14. Furthermore, the recent revision of the Grand Paris Express project, which I mentioned about back in March of 2013, throws another bone into the plans, because if those plans are successfully carried out, Line 11 will eventually be converted to automated operation as well.

I’ve listed several possibilities, some of which have been discussed via SkyScraperCity and the Symbioz Forums.

  • Option A
    • Convert all 52 MP 89CC stock trains to fully-automated operation at mid-life refurbishment.
    • Transfer all 21 MP 89CA stock trains from Line 14 to Line 4 for reinforcement.
    • Transfer all 18 MP 05 stock trains from Line 14 to Line 1 for reinforcement.
    • Allow the MP 14 stock to operate along Lines 6, 11, and 14.
    • A total of about 73 trains would operate on Line 4, more than enough for the extension to Bagneux and possibly sufficient for the proposed extension to Saint Ouen, if it is carried out.
  • Option B
    • Transfer roughly 45 MP 89CC stock trains to Line 6, shortening them to 5-car configurations at mid-life refurbishment.
    • Remaining MP 89CC stock trains may be scrapped or modernized.
    • Transfer all 21 MP 89CA stock trains from Line 14 to Line 4 for reinforcement.
    • Transfer all 18 MP 05 stock trains from Line 14 to Line 4 for reinforcement.
    • Deploy roughly 21 MP 14 stock trains to Line 4 to provide for a total of about 60 trains needed for the extension to Bagneux. More MP 14 stock can be ordered should the extension to St. Ouen is carried out.
    • Allow the MP 14 stock to operate on Lines 11 and 14 as well.
  • Option C
    • Transfer roughly 41 MP 89CC stock trains to Line 11, shortening them to 5-car configurations at mid-life refurbishment. 41 trains are needed for the Line 11 extension towards Rosny.
    • Remaining MP 89CC stock trains may be scrapped or modernized.
    • Transfer all 21 MP 89CA stock trains from Line 14 to Line 4 for reinforcement.
    • Transfer all 18 MP 05 stock trains from Line 14 to Line 4 for reinforcement.
    • Deploy roughly 21 MP 14 stock trains to Line 4 to provide for a total of about 60 trains needed for the extension to Bagneux. More MP 14 stock can be ordered should the extension to St. Ouen is carried out.
  • Option D
    • Abandon mid-life refurbishment for the MP 89CC and retire the entire stock of 52 trains early.
    • Deploy the MP 14 stock to Lines 4, 6, 11, and 14.
    • Transfer the MP 05 stock trains to Line 1 for reinforcement.
    • MP 89CA stock of 21 trains would either be transferred to Line 1, or be scrapped early.

Now, keep in mind that these possibilities are only what I’ve been hearing thus far. But my gut feeling tells me that there may be no mid-life refurbishment for the MP 89CC stock, which truly would be a shame if it comes to be that they are retired early. I’m sure that both the RATP and the STIF are heavily evaluating the pros and cons of all options that may be on the table for the next round of cascading of rolling stock.

One thing to keep in mind is that Line 11 is physically separated from the rest of the rubber-tyred lines, so there is currently no way to simply drive trains from Line 4 to Line 11, the trains must be transported via other means through Line 3, which is a steel-wheeled line. Another thing to keep in mind is that expanding station platforms nowadays is pretty costly (even though I’ve heard of a project to do just that along Line 5 of the Santiago Metro), so it is unlikely that either Line 6 or Line 11 can be feasibly be lengthened to accommodate 6 or 7 car trains. It’s not to say that such a feat would be impossible, but it is expensive, and I don’t think that the RATP has any immediate plans to lengthen platforms.

It will be very, very interesting to see in the next few months as to what the final verdict is on the future of the MP 89CC stock. For now, everything will continue as normal. But when 2017 comes around, these awesome trains may possibly be inching towards the scrapyard.

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