France programs CAD $31.5 billion for urban electric rail transit development

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Modern LRT operating on a lawned R-O-W. 21 century light rail!

Interesting news from France, where the government is investing at least CAD $31.15 billion in urban transit projects. What should be of interest to Rail for The Valley is that France is also investing TramTrain, which “operation is currently adamantly prohibited in the USA by the Federal Railroad Administration, but it has become widespread in Europe, where it’s been operating safely and efficiently for nearly two decades“. TramTrain, the ability to operate trams safely on mainline railways is key for affordable public transit, where the transit customer comes first, not politicians and bureaucrats.

Also of note, is the cost of the proposed and ambitious 130km ‘Arc Express’ automatic metro being planned for Paris. The cost estimate of of € 15 billion to € 20 billion (CAD $22.3 billion to CAD $30 billion) should give one pause to reflect on the per km cost of CAD $171.5 million/km to CAD $230 million/ km as a good indication of the cost of a proposed SkyTrain subway under Broadway. Not overlooking the fact is that subways tend to cost more to build than originally budgeted for, such as the RAV/Canada line, where  the scope of the project was reduced to fit the original budget. Even after $2.5 billion+ was spent on the RAV metro, it is still a ‘bargain basement’ job and will take another $1 billion to $1.5 billion to bring it up to the performance of a regular subway!

France, which as lead  the way with the light rail Renaissance, again is investing in six, ‘new starts’ tram systems on top of six other new tramways under construction, which will bring the total of 30 cities in France operating with LRT or trams.

It seems that the French government is very concerned with ‘Global Warming’ and greenhouse gas, unlike our politicians in BC and Canada, who like to ‘talk the talk’, but in no way ‘walk the walk’. Instead of a program to bring at least 300 km. of ‘rail’ transit to the region to provide an affordable alternative to the car, government is still funding politically prestigious subways, building new highways and investing as little as possible into real transit solutions.

From the Light Rail Now folks:

France programs massive investment of as much as  € 21 billion (US $29 billion) for urban electric rail transit development.

The government of France has announced plans to award major capital grants to help fund investment in new public transport systems, according to a recent report in Tramways & Urban Transit (TAUT, June 2009), the authoritative international magazine about light rail and urban rail transit developments published by the British Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA). “It gives the reasons as both to improve the environment and support the national economic recovery” says the magazine’s report “adding that this new spurt of urban electric rail investment is the first stage of an announced 1500km [930 miles] of new tramway covering just provincial cities across the country.”

In what’s described as the “first stage” of a massive investment in new tramway (light rail/streetcar) development, the French government has committed funding within a “financial envelope” of €1 billion (about US $1.4 billion) to support a list of 57 tramway projects. In addition, the government also announced a commitment of € 15 to € 20 billion (about $21 to $28 billion) for capital funding to help finance “a state-of-the-art 130km [81-mile] automated metro for the capital of Paris, which will have a total of 60 stations and be known as Arc Express.” This “ambitious project” could be completed by 2020, says the TAUT report.

France’s commitment to urban rail transit eclipses by far the USA’s rail transit funding gestures, which seem puny by comparison. Even with the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package, America, with about 5 times France’s population, has committed only about $8 billion and that’s for both high-speed intercity rail passenger projects and “inner-city rail”. In other words, with about 5 times France’s population, the USA has committed less than one-third as much central government spending for this crucial public transport program “despite all the “yak” about a “green economy”, reducing carbon emissions, addressing the “peak oil” crisis by reducing dependency on petroleum, and the need to shape more efficient urban development and transport patterns and reduce the ongoing costs of mobility.

In contrast, the magnitude of France’s current urban rail development program already under way is staggering:

• Electric trolleybus projects in 5 cities…
• Metro expansion in 2 cities (in addition to Paris)…
• Electric tramway (light rail streetcar) development in 30 cities…

France has been encouraging urban rail transit development, especially light rail tramways, by leaps and bounds. Over the past couple of decades, “new start” tramways have been installed and “legacy” tramway systems upgraded in more than a dozen French cities. (See, for example, our collection of articles at France Rail Transit, Light Rail, Tramway, and Public Transport Developments.)

Currently, according to the LRTA’s summary A world of trams and urban transit . A complete listing of Light Rail, Light Railway, Tramway & Metro systems throughout the World, totally new tramway projects (i.e., “new starts”) are under construction in six more French cities:

• Angers — completion scheduled for 2010…
• Brest — completion scheduled for 2012…
• Le Havre — completion scheduled for 2011…
• Reims — completion scheduled for 2011…
• Toulouse — completion scheduled for 2010…
• Tours — completion scheduled for 2013…

France has also been aggressively developing tram-train operations light rail services that run as trams (streetcars or more advanced LRT systems) on urban streets and reservations, then share “heavy rail” railway lines with intercity rail passenger trains. This type of operation is currently adamantly prohibited in the USA by the Federal Railroad Administration, but it has become widespread in Europe, where it’s been operating safely and efficiently for nearly two decades.

Currently, in addition to those operating and planned, new tram-train systems are under construction in two French cities that already operate brand-new urban tramway systems:

• Mulhouse — completion scheduled for 2011..
• Nantes — completion scheduled (in stages) for 2010-2013…

And, in addition to its existing new tramway system, Lyon has a more advanced, high-performance LRT system also under construction, due for completion in 2010.

Bottom line: While the United States excels among the world’s advanced countries in procrastinating, dreaming, and dithering in terms of urban rail transit development, France is moving rapidly and aggressively to actually put in place a comprehensive, efficient, cost-effective, and highly “green” network of urban electric metros, trolleybus lines, and tramways that will provide lower-cost public transport, ensure quality urban mobility, dramatically minimize petroleum dependency, and help reduce carbon emissions for generations to come.

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9 Responses to “France programs CAD $31.5 billion for urban electric rail transit development”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    It looks like the French are investing and tram *and* automated metro to build up their existing, diverse network of metro, automated metro, LRT and communter rail.

    i.e, In spite of the cost, they feel that it is important to have automated metro as part of that plan.

    Zweisystem replies: Let I remind you that the automatic metro is being built in a conurbation with a area population over 10.1 million; put another way, the proposed automatic metro is serving a population almost equal to that of Thunder Bay, West to Victoria BC! The high projected ridership and the large passenger loads both justify a metro and automatic operation. I also note the phrase “ambitious plans for a…….(ARC)”, which means this grand metro plan is just maybe too expensive for the French public purse.

  2. Richard Says:

    Thanks for posting this.

    It is interesting to note that a group focused on Light Rail understands the strategic importance of investments in all forms of electric transit including metro and trolley buses. I suspect it is a much more effective strategy than fighting over what type of transit is best.

    Note the bottom line at the end:
    “France is moving rapidly and aggressively to actually put in place a comprehensive, efficient, cost-effective, and highly “green” network of urban electric metros, trolleybus lines, and tramways that will provide lower-cost public transport, ensure quality urban mobility, dramatically minimize petroleum dependency, and help reduce carbon emissions for generations to come”.

    Sure the area might have 5 times the population, but note the automated metro is also around 5 times the length of that being proposed for this region.

    Zweisystem replies: Didn’t read the post, did you, France is making its largest investment in light rail, including Paris. This post well illustrates to what lengths the SkyTrain lobby will go to distort the truth. When the French company Alstom abandoned the RAV/Canada Line project it was because their experienced planners felt that a metro/subway would be just too expensive, a view shared by Siemens. They wanted a light rail solution but were ignored, hell they were not even allowed to mention LRT at all. SNC Lavalin built the subway but they are a pure engineering firm and know little if anything about the science of public transport.

    As I said before, you can build all the SkyTrain you want but someone has to pay for it and a Broadway SkyTrain subway project just might break the bank with TransLink and shatter METRO Vancouver with colossal debt. The SkyTrain lobby remains, as always, blind to the realities of modern public transportation practice.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    “It seems that the French government is very concerned with ‘Global Warming’ and greenhouse gas, unlike our politicians in BC and Canada, who like to ‘talk the talk’, but in no way ‘walk the walk’.”

    Unless your the PM, then rather then talking the talk you can just shut down parliament anytime you please to excuse yourself from the talk.

  4. Richard Says:

    Actually, I did read it.
    “In what’s described as the “first stage” of a massive investment in new tramway (light rail/streetcar) development, the French government has committed funding within a “financial envelope” of €1 billion (about US $1.4 billion) to support a list of 57 tramway projects. In addition, the government also announced a commitment of € 15 to € 20 billion (about $21 to $28 billion) for capital funding to help finance “a state-of-the-art 130km [81-mile] automated metro for the capital of Paris, which will have a total of 60 stations and be known as Arc Express.” This “ambitious project” could be completed by 2020, says the TAUT report.”

    It clearly states €1 billion for trams and € 15 to € 20 billion for the automated metro.

    Zweisystem replies: Actually no, the € 15 to € 20 billion for ARC is on top of the the € 21 billion for electric urban transit; quoting the article, “In addition, the government also announced a commitment of € 15 to € 20 billion (about $21 to $28 billion) for capital funding to help finance “a state-of-the-art 130km [81-mile] automated metro for the capital of Paris”.

    The € 1 billion was for, “In what’s described as the “first stage” of a massive investment in new tramway (light rail/streetcar) development….” Even though Zwei thinks LRT is cheap, there is no way that € 1 billion will fund “a list of 57 tramway projects.”

    Also note, the article said the funding for ARC was ambitious, which translates to, “too expensive to build.”

  5. Richard Says:

    The article starts off with, “France programs massive investment of as much as € 21 billion (US $29 billion) for urban electric rail transit development.”

    The € 1 billion for the trams plus the up to € 20 billion for the metro equals “as much as € 21 billion” as per the opening line of the article.

    You are likely correct that the € 1 billion would not be enough to fund the 57 tramway projects. I would expect that the cities would be kicking in money as well on top of the € 1 billion from the French gov. for the trams.

    And just to confirm from another source:
    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-201850379.html

    THE French government has unveiled ambitious plans to invest more than 20 billion [euro] in an automated metro ring line linking the outer suburbs of Paris, as well as 1 billion in grants towards 57 other light rail projects in cities across France (see table).

    Zweisystem replies: Richard, you have read it wrong and you continue to twist statement to suit your own agenda. This is exactly how the SkyTrain lobby works. You take a rather benign posting and you twist it to make it sound like the automatic metro was the main theme, it isn’t. It was $31.5 billion to be spent on ‘electric transit’ with an additional funding for ARC. It seems the SkyTrain metro lobby are desperate and now stooping to new lows in propaganda. What was supposed to be an informative item has turned into a nasty propaganda campaign by the SkyTrain trolls. I am very sorry for this.

  6. David Says:

    It sounds to me like the first billion is merely to support development of tram lines that have already secured most of their funding and, in fact, are already under construction. It may simply be guarantee money to ensure they’re finished.

    The ARC funding of 15-20 billion is a strong statement, but it’s “to help finance” the project. That means the true cost will be higher and without additional funding won’t get built. Either way the load is being spread across the entire French population to support their showcase capital city. Vancouver does not have the luxury of being in the same league nor does the cost of our projects get spread across 80 million people.

  7. zweisystem Says:

    A note:

    It seems that the SkyTrain lobby are desperately trying to promote a SkyTrain metro to UBC. As indicated, Zweisystem thinks it is a dated proposal which will further increase TransLink debt and greatly increase regional taxes.

    Already many businesses are leaving downtown Vancouver to cheaper digs, the long established Page & Wilson is but a good example. This means very expensive metros feeding downtown Vancouver, will loose patronage as transit customers will change their commutes.

    The UBC SkyTrain subway scheme may be the final straw in the bankruptcy of TransLink as regional municipal governments will tire of prestige projects in Vancouver and crumbs in their areas.

    This could lead to a specter of a half completed subway along Broadway as TransLink fractures and funding ceases. It will not be the first time a subway has bankrupted a transportation agency.

    As it stands, LRT can easily handle todays ridership as well as future ridership on the Broadway route and can be built quite cheaply, if need be. But LRT can be built very expensively by those who want to download massive street improvement projects on LRT construction.

    Broadway can easily accommodate LRT, if designed properly. Certainly Vancouver’s planners in the 80’s thought so, until the TransLink light-metro planners got a hold of their plans!

    One can build SkyTrain, but the SkyTrain lobby must be prepared for the consequences of metro construction and read up on the “Law of Unintended Consequences”.

    Zweisytem will not let this blog become a ‘Trolls delight’ but will continue its role in promoting A Vancouver to Chilliwack LRT and to that end, educate the readers of modern LRT and urban transit in general, something that has been lacking in the region for over three decades.

  8. John Says:

    Zweisystem – you are right that the article emphasizes tram-train construction. It says 1500km of new tramway has already been announced….. And now, the first stage of funding for this massive development has been announced (a relatively small $1 billion Euro with obviously much more to come.

    Richard and David are right with the dollar figure though, the total they arrive at ($21 billion euro) is the $1 billion + the ARC.

    Most of the funding for the entire 1500km of new tramway has simply not been announced yet.

    I think here you are being too hard on Richard. Everyone will interpret statements to suit their own agenda. He says, “It is interesting to note that a group focused on Light Rail understands the strategic importance of investments in all forms of electric transit.” Nothing wrong with that statement, but it is for Paris of course, and Vancouver does not, and never will, have the population of Paris!

    And Richard – it’s described as a “first stage in a massive investment in tramways” – clearly much more to come from France, not just from the cities.

  9. Justin Bernard Says:

    If you can grab a copy. The November issue of Today’s Railway(UK) has an extensive article on the construction of Tram-Train lines in Paris.

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