The wheels keep on turnin’…
Page was last updated on 05/08/2019
Like many rail systems across the globe, you have a mix of older trains & newer trains in operation – running side by side in harmony. Paris is no exception to this, & enjoys a variety of unique subway railcars. The neatest thing that I’ve learned about the Paris Metro is that they pioneered the rubber-tyred subway railcar – which is used in many countries across the globe, including Canada (Montreal to be specific).
How do the rubber-tyred trains operate? Much like their traditional steel-wheeled counterparts, however, the rubber tire is placed on the outer ends of each axle & are complemented by an inner steel wheel in case a tire or two get punctured. From my understanding, the rubber-tyred metro train is credited with having a far more superior grip against the tracks than their steel-wheeled counterparts.
To date, the following lines operate with rubber-tyred subway railcars: the 1, 4, 6, 11, & 14. There are currently no plans to convert existing lines to rubber-tyred operation, as it can be costly to do. But future new lines could be equipped for rubber-tyre operation. I’m not entirely clear on whether the new 15, 16, & 17 lines will use rubber-tyred trains or not. The 18 from my understanding will use more of a light rail-like steel-wheeled vehicle.
On this page, I will be profiling each of the active trains that operate on the system. All of the trains utilize a naming convention that is based on what type of material the train uses (either steel wheel or rubber tire) and the year that the train was put into the planning books (not necessarily the year that the train went into service).
Rubber-tyred railcar – in service since 1963.
- MP 59 (Materiel Pneumatic 1959)
- Designed: 1959
- Manufactured: 1962 through 1967 (train series A, B, C), & 1974 through 1976 (train series D)
- Lines of Operation: Line 1: 1963 through 2000 (train series A, B, C, D)
- Line 4: 1967 through 2012 (train series A, B, C, D)
- Line 11: 1997 through the present (train series B & C)
The MP 59 is the oldest rolling stock still in operation in Paris. This particular stock has rubber tires fitted on the outside of each axle. Behind each tire is a steel wheel that keeps the trains running if a tire goes flat. The MP 59 stock was originally deployed to Line 1 in 1963 and Line 4 in 1967 when both lines were converted to rubber-tyred operation (prior to this, they operated as traditional steel-wheel lines). With the arrival of the MP 89 in 1997, the trains were shuffled to Line 11 to replace the aging MP 55. Trains that were no longer fit for service were pulled from the system altogether.
With the conversion to automated operation on Line 1, the MP 59 stock on Line 4 have been replaced by the MP 89 stock from Line 1. The cascading process began in May of 2011 and was completed in December, 2012. The last MP 59 train to run on Line 4 was #6021, which was retired from service on December 21, 2012. The upcoming MP 14 is currently slated to replace the remainder of these trains.
Although the MP 59 stock still run pretty good on Line 11, the tires do generate an immense amount of heat, causing the trains to be unbearably hot and uncomfortable throughout the day. During my travels in Paris, one of the MP 59 trains that I rode on actually came to a screeching halt for several minutes. I’m not sure if someone tried to pull the emergency stop in one of the cabs, or if the signaling system was malfunctioning. Line 4 is currently the worst of the lines when it comes to track signaling, as it is the most obsolete in the entire Paris subway system.
Steel-wheeled railcar – in service since 1973.
- MF 67 (Materiel Fer 1967)
- Designed: 1967
- Manufactured: 1967 through 1976
- Lines of Operation:
- Line 2: 1975 through 2011 (train series C, D)
- Line 3: 1967 through the present (train series A, C, D)
- Line 3b: 1981 through the present (train series D, with 3 car configurations)
- Line 5: 1973 through the present (train series D, E from 1973 until 1981, train series F from 1981 through mid 2013)
- Line 7: 1974 through 1983 (train series E, F)
- Line 7b: 1974 through 1994 (train series E, F)
- Line 8: 1974 through 1994 (train series E)
- Line 9: 1967 through the present (train series A, C, CX, D, E)
- Line 10: 1994 through the present (train series D, E)
- Line 12: 1974 through the present (train series D, E)
The MF 67 is the oldest of the steel-wheeled trains, which run on Lines 3, 3b, 5, 9, 10, and 12. At nearly 40 years old, they still run pretty good. However, trains on Lines 2, 5, & 9 have been replaced by the newer MF 2000 stock (commonly known as the MF 01). Trains on the 3, 7, 10, & 12 will all eventually be replaced by the planned MF 19 railcars. Trains that are in better condition (have been refurbished to extend their lifespan through at least 2025 (lines 3, 10 & 12). The above photo is that of the Line 3 trains, which received a heavy renovation due to modernization of the line (new signaling, etc.).
This is inside one of the refurbished MF 67 trains on Line 3. They sure look much nicer than the un-refurbished ones. Besides the newer lighting and seating, the refurbished MF 67 trains also include dynamic station displays (also apparent on the MF 01 stock) and automated station announcements.
Rubber-tyred railcar – in service since 1974.
- MP 73 (Materiel Pneumatic 1973)
- Designed: 1973
- Manufactured: 1974 through 1976
- Lines of Operation:
- Line 6: 1974 through the present.
- Line 11: 1974 through the present (one train).
The MP 73 is the fourth generation rubber-tyred rolling stock on the Paris Metro. They were designed for use on Line 6 and follow the design of the MF 67 stock. Line 6 was converted to rubber-tyred operation during the early 1970s due to the various number of elevated sections along the line by which steel wheeled trains caused heavy vibration to the tracks. The above photo is that of station Passy, where one train departs towards station Nation while another arrives in the opposite direction, headed towards station Étoile.
Steel-wheeled railcar – in service since 1978.
- MF 77 (Materiel Fer 1977)
- Designed: 1977
- Manufactured: 1978 through 1982
- Lines of Operation:
- Line 7: 1978 through the present. Currently undergoing renovation.
- Line 8: 1978 through the present.
- Line 13: 1978 through the present. Renovated between 2013 & 2015.
The MF 77 is another mainline fleet on the Paris Metro. They consist of a totally different design that was better suited for suburban connections along the Metro. These trains run on Lines 7, 8, and 13. As part of an improvement project on Line 13, the MF 77 trains on that line received a heavy refurbishment and modernization, and the busiest stations along the line were fitted with platform screen doors. There are plans for Lines 7 and 13 to eventually become automated.
Before the implementation of the RATP’s current logo and livery in 1992/1993, the MF 77 stock possessed a white livery, with a trace of blue on the front of each end. Travelers affectionately nicknamed the trains métro blanche, or white subway. That nickname could possibly make a return due to the trains on the 7 & 8 being renovated. The renovated trains (which are pictured) possess the joint RATP/Île-de-France Mobilités (formerly STIF) livery. This livery comprises of a mostly white body with gray at the bottom of each side, along with a baby blue stripe along the top of each side and a baby blue upper portion on each end.
Steel-wheeled railcar – in service since 1993.
- MF 88 (Materiel Fer 1988)
- Designed: 1988
- Manufactured: 1993 through 1994.
- Lines of Operation:
- Line 7b: 1993 through the present.
The MF 88 is basically a prototype articulated train that runs along the lesser-used Line 7b. The RATP began testing articulated trains during the 1980s (with the BOA prototype) to increase capacity on the system’s busiest lines. Although the MF 88 trains have been plagued by many problems, their overall design eventually led to the development of the MP 89, MF 2000, and MP 05 trains.
- MP 89 (Materiel Pneumatic 1989)
- Designed: 1989
- Manufactured: 1997 through 2000.
- Lines of Operation:
- Line 1: 1997 through 2013 = Manually driven (CC).
- Line 4: 2011 through the present = Manually driven (CC).
- Line 14: 1998 through the present = Fully automated (CA).
The MP 89 is the fifth generation of rubber-tyred rolling stock on the Paris Metro system, the first series of modernized rolling stock on the system, and the first of the Alstom Metropolis brand trains. There are two subclasses to this rolling stock, as one set was designed to replace the MP 59 on Line 1 and the other to operate on the fully automated Line 14.
The first subclass is a manually driven version called the MP 89CC (CC meaning Conduite Conducteur). It originally operated on Line 1 from 1997 until early 2013. They replaced the aging MP 59 stock on Line 1, with some of the older trains going to Line 4 or 11. In-turn, the MP 89CC also replaced the MP 59 on Line 4 when Line 1 was converted to fully automated operation and received new rolling stock (the MP 05). Lines 1 & 4 are today still the two busiest lines on the Metro. So much so that Line 4 is slated for automation in the next five to ten years.
There are currently 47 MP 89CC trains in operation on Line 4, with the remaining 5 in reserve.
- MF 2000 (Materiel Fer 2000)
- Designed: 2000
- Manufactured: 2004 through the present.
- Lines of Operation:
- Line 2: 2008 through the present. Comprises of railcars 002 through 045.
- Line 5: 2011 through the present. Comprises of railcars 046 through 095.
- Line 9: Deployment to begin June/July, 2013. Comprises of railcars 001, and 096 through 161 (railcar #001 was permanently reassigned to Line 9 from Line 2). All of these railcars are painted in the joint RATP/STIF livery.
The MF 2000 (known officially as the MF 01) is the newest generation of steel wheel rolling stock. They current operate on Lines 2 & 5 (the Line 5 trains went into service on June 25, 2011). Due to technological improvements, the wheels and axles don’t squeal as much around turns like the old steel wheel trains do. They are also the first series of rolling stock to be equipped with air conditioning.
I previously mis-labeled this photo as being that of the MP 89, but this is actually inside the MF 2000 train (Line 2). The elevated sections of Line 2 often crowd up severely, causing a scene like this where there is only standing room.
- MP 05 (Materiel Pneumatic 2005)
- Designed: 2005.
- Manufactured: 2010 through the present.
- Lines of Operation:
- Line 1: 2011 through the present. Comprises of railcars 501 through 554. Railcars 550 through 554 are painted in the joint RATP/STIF livery.
- Line 14: 2013 through the present. Comprises of railcars 581 throguh 594. Railcars 585 through 594 are painted in the joint RATP/STIF livery.
Now that I’ve gone through the active rolling stock, let me just briefly highlight the trains of the past. The Paris Metro has operated the following stock during the past century:
- The M1: These were the original wooden frame subway cars. They ran on Lines 1 and 2, among a couple others for several years. However, efforts to group the trains into multiple motor units proved to be fatal when a horrific fire, known as Couronnes disaster, occurred along Line 2 consumed several of these trains and killed many people. After the incident, improved subway trains were developed and the original wooden cars were discarded (with the exception of a few that are displayed at the city’s transport museum). Learn more about the Couronnes disaster at the Soundlandscapes Blog.
- The Sprauge: For over 50 years, the Sprague-Thomson, which replaced the M1, circulated throughout all the original lines of the Metro, as well as traveling through the various extensions that opened throughout the years. These trains comprised of four car sets, with three car sets running on Line 3b. When Lines 1, 4, and 11 were converted to rubber-tyred operation, the end of the Sprague became inevitable, and the gradual replacement commenced. The last set of Sprauge trains ran on Lines 5 and 9 during the early 1980s and were officially retired in 1983. Until 2012, one Sprague train could be seen running heritage tours throughout the system, thus bringing back a piece of the subway’s charmed past. However, usage of the train is now heavily restricted due to its age and is rarely seen today.
- The MA 51: The MA 51 was a unique steel-wheeled train that ran along Lines 10 and 13, where at the time, traffic was relatively weak. The MA 51 was unique in the way train cars were connected to each other. The trains used a special coupling system that allowed the RATP to quickly change the configuration of trains from 2 cars to 4 cars, depending on passenger loads. When the MF 67 went into service on Line 13, the trains were shifted to Line 10, where they were modernized. The trains then ran as a permanently fused 6 car layout until their retirement in 1994, when they were replaced by MF 67-D and E stock from other lines.
- The MP 55: The MP 55 was the second generation of rubber-tyred rolling stock, which ran on Line 11 between 1956 and 1999, following successful tests of the first-generation prototype, the MP 51. The design of the MP 55 is heavily derived from the MA 51. In-turn, the MP 59 is heavily derived from the MP 55.
- Prototypes: In addition to the MP 51, other prototype trains included the stainless steel MF 67 (the Zebulon), and the modified MF 77 train (the BOA).
Finally, I would like to talk briefly about the future of the Paris Metro rolling stock. There is currently a next-generation rubber-tyred rolling stock being developed for Line 14, which is about to undergo two simultaneous extensions. These extensions will greatly increase the passenger load on the line, and will require trains of 8 cars to operate. The new rolling stock will be similar in nature to that of the MP 89 in respects to it having two subclasses. The first will be a fully automated 8-car series that will operate on Line 14. It is currently unclear if existing stock would be modified to run alongside the new trains, or if they will be reassigned. The second subclass will be manually driven 5-car variants that will operate along Lines 6 and 11, replacing the aging MP 59 and MP 73 trains respectively.