New Tram-Trains in Lyon ….

Posted on October 7th, 2012, by The Chairman

The first line of the new Western Lyon tram-train project started running on Saturday 22 September. This is a transport project in the urban area of Lyon in the region Rhône-Alpes to improve the traffic between the railway stations of Lyon-Saint-Paul to Brignais, L’Arbresle, Sain-Bel, and Lozanne. The project consists of the creation of three tram-train lines.

I had a two day trip planned to visit Lyon. It’s a fascinating city architecturally, the people are very helpful even though most don’t speak English (why should they?!!) and the public transport very interesting with 4 tram lines with 3 extensions being built, a fast tram to the airport (very expensive to travel on and not covered by the day rover – see below), trolley buses (single and bendy) that run on their batteries in the old part of town (and on their diesel engines when things go wrong – see below), 2 funciulars and 4 metro lines, 2 of which are of the rubber-tyred French variety, 1 is driverless like the Docklands Light Railway and 1 is a metro, part of which is a rack railway – I’d not been on a rack metro before.

On Thursday 27 September I took a trip on the tram-train.

The line to Sain-Bel is “train only”; the others will be train and tram (road running).

St Paul station is in the old part of town. When I was last there 5 years ago, it was a beautiful building but semi-derelict and served by DMUs which were in a terrible state. Very much the poor cousin of the two mainline Lyon stations of Part-Dieu and Perrache.

The station is being refurbished with the main offices converted into very plush apartments.

And outside ….

…. stands one of the new Alstom tram-trains, in between the newer single car DMUs that have replaced the old rusting trains used 5 years ago.

Our train came in ….

Inside they are very comfortable.

They are 5 section vehicles. Above is a view towards the front from halfway down the unit.

Below is a view towards the front from standing right at the back.

There’s loads of space inside for people, bikes, prams and so on and they have a lovely ambience to them. These ones don’t have toilets as it’s only a 30 minute run to Sain-Bel.

There’s a great view forward, too.

The driver in the cab is having problems. We were due out at 1045, but left at 1055 due to “technical difficulties”. The ride is incredibly smooth and the acceleration phenomenal. They’re still running the diesels in some of the diagrams, and within 20 minutes we’d caught up 10 minutes on the diesel schedule!

Units are still being delivered.

Entering a (rebuilt) station.

Passing one of the soon-to-be replaced single coach DMUs – these run three coupled together in the peaks.

On arrival at Sain-Bel.

Sain-Bel is a lovely small town, though blighted by the constant stream of heavy lorries going to and from the local quarries. I stopped for lunch.

Back at the station waiting for the tram-train back, here comes an empty freight train for the local quarries.

I had tried to get a picture of the depot on the way out, but the fencing proved too much. On the way back it was a little better, though the sun was against me ….

And back to Lyon, St Paul.

All in all, quite superb, though not quite as cosy as on the Mid Cheshire line in the peak ….

(This is the 0717 after leaving Mobberley on 5 September, the first week of school term, when Control discovered that using a class 142 instead of the rostered class 150 means leaving 30+ people behind at stations waiting for the next train, 1 hour later. This train loads to around 260. There’s a backup plan now such that if all they have is a 142, it runs as 2 x 142).


Meanwhile, for those interested, those trolleybuses ….

In the old town of Lyon they don’t want to string up overhead wires for the trolleybuses, but they don’t want motor buses either.

The solution is the trolleybuses lower their trolley poles in these parts, running on their batteries and accelerating just as fast.

This is also useful when there are obstructions around calling for a diversion and during overhead wire maintenance.

The trolley I was on to Gare St Paul took its poles down to get around a maintenance wagon.

The driver has 3 cameras – one for each side of the vehicle and one pointing up at the overhead wires, so he can guide the poles back onto the wires from his cab. No getting out, getting traffic to reverse up whilst he/she pulls out the long pole, then fishing around catching the poles and putting them back on manually!

However, this doesn’t always go to plan!!

If you look at the pole nearest the camera, you’ll see the pole is up, but the collector has fallen off the top of the pole, being held on by the current cable.

Oh, la, la! This called for a conference between the driver, the driver of the trolleybus stuck behind him and the trolley inspector who strolled down from St Paul Station.

Merde! (That’s French for “Oh, dear”, I was told!)

Time to take the poles down, start up the auxiliary diesel engine (I don’t know why they didn’t use battery power) and chug off in disgrace rather slowly back to the depot.

If you’ve not been to Lyon, it’s well worth a trip.

A day ticket on all the transport in town, though not the tram-train, costs €4.90, that’s only about £4. Stunning value!

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