Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday 16 December - Opening of new tramway T8

After lunch at le Bon Georges (foie gras and scallops) I went off to metro Saint Denis Porte de Paris to be at the opening of the new tramway T8. There were no details on the RATP web site although it was announced briefly on TV3 news yesterday. At the station there were no signs at all, in fact the only indication were two flags close to a raised dais. There was still a lot of work to do and it quickly became evident that the opening should have been delayed until the tramway was ready. The area is very different from Chatillon last Saturday although both are high density. This area is diverse and contains many middle Eastern and north African businesses.
The opening was announced for 1600 - just at the beginning of the evening rush.
A spare set waiting at the Saint-Denis terminus.  These five unit trams have three trucks but they are not articulated, the second and fourth "cars" are hung between the adjacent cars.
There were a lot of RATP personnel in high visibility jackets, at times they outnumbered the potential passengers.
At 1515 there was not a great deal of action
The first tram in with invited guests
A tram arrived full to the gills with invited guests, another followed it. There was organized chaos as the guests were channelled politely towards the stand for speeches. Finally a tram full of the important people arrived wrong line and the cameras started rolling. This formed the first official tram out. It was well filled but I managed to get a seat. We took off about five minutes late and we had to stop by the reviewing stand for photo ops.
Tram congestion - three trams in the holding sidings at Saint-Denis with another one in the departure platform at my back.The right of way is nicely grassed or concreted.  Note the blades of the switches are in the concrete and not in the grass.
The trams are very smooth, pleasant and quiet but the journey to the end of the line at Épinay Orgemont took an age.  There was a wait for 5 minutes to smooth out the traffic flows which was strange as we were the first tram out. There are many sections where speed is severely limited by very tight curves, a consequence of trying to fit a tramway into an existing built up urban area. There were many stops for traffic and I hope the RATP can get the sequencing sorted out. Adjusting the traffic lights to give trams priority can take some time - it took months on the first section of T3.
At Épinay Orgemont a group of drummers entered the tram and livened things up.
As of tomorrow the RATP is making changes to some 15 bus routes and eliminating two others. It might have been better to have delayed the opening of the tramway until the kinks had been eliminated.
It was good to finally ride over the double line of T1 at Saint Denis Gare where the four diamond crossings have been in place for several years. There were some decorations at several of the stations and a group of drummers at the terminus. I have the impression that the RATP opened the tramway to make good on their published plan to open by the end of 2014 rather than to ensure it was really ready.
After at slow return I decided not to go on the branch to Villetaneuse Université. I can leave that and the crossing at Saint Denis Gare for another day.
It was getting dark when I arrived back at Saint-Denis.  On the left is an outgoing tram.  On the right is the first tram back from Épinay Orgemont.