Launched in 2016, the automation of line 4 is (finally) coming to an end. A satisfaction displayed this Thursday by Laurent Probst, the general director of Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), welcoming the already successful deployment of “41 shuttles (autonomous without driver) out of 50” on this line which connects the Porte de Clignancourt in Bagneux. “The project is underway and will be completed, to be delivered at the end of 2023,” he rejoiced. The end of the ordeal for users of line 4, who have suffered numerous traffic interruptions since the launch of automation and with the recent extension of the line towards Bagneux, to the south. If other closures are still planned for the first quarter of 2024, particularly on Sundays to carry out full-scale tests, nothing will ever be comparable to the painful fifteen days of closure of line 14 in October.
A blessing in disguise, we think at IDFM. Because for the general director of the organizing authority for public transport in the Ile-de-France region, the observation is clear: “the economic profitability of a line increases by 30 to 40% when it becomes automatic”. “That is 3 to 4 times higher than the economic profitability of an extension”, estimates the one who intends to “continue on this momentum” and continue the automation of the network which he considers “very useful”. “For us, it’s the future,” he says again. Next on the list? Line 13. “IDFM has voted for the credits, RATP will launch the call for tenders at the end of 2023 and the contract should be signed at the end of 2025,” welcomed Laurent Probst, who plans the complete automation of the line “by 2033”.
At the same time, a study must be launched by RATP on all of the network's lines, in order to identify the most promising potential candidates for automation. For the general manager - who does not rule out launching several automations "at the same time" or doing things "slower" - lines 7, 8 and 9 should logically be next on the list. After the construction of the first line 14, 100% automatic since 1998, then the automation of line 1 in 2012, then 4 today and 13 to come. Particularly because of the future delivery of the Grand Paris Express lines, which should relieve certain lines but also “load others” including these three.
A vast project which will take decades and is obviously very expensive. The automation of line 4, estimated at 480 million euros, will, for example, have cost as much as its extension to the south. But above all, this investment must pay off big in terms of quality of service. As proof, IDFM cites the punctuality figures for line 4 in September: 93% during peak hours, compared to only 86% on line 6 during the same period. A saving of time and money for the RATP and IDFM, who jointly emphasize that the automation of a line allows for more “regularity”, “resilience” and “flexibility”.
In any case, this is what Cyril Condé, the director of the RATP project management department, supports. According to him, automation rhymes with better regularity of the system, while “all trains can run at regular intervals on the entire line, and this, throughout the duration of rush hour” in particular. He also believes that this allows for better incident management, since each line segment can be cut without affecting the rest of the line “which continues to be operated as if nothing had happened”. The RATP engineer finally insists on the flexibility induced by automation, to the extent that it will now be entirely possible “to add trains” on line 4 as soon as there is a “significant influx of travelers”. “Here too, this goes in the direction of better comfort for travelers, everyone benefits,” he says.
From January 1, line 4 will then operate three generations of automatic rolling stock (MP89 and MP05 automatic driving from line 14 as well as the new MP14) which will be managed by a completely renewed centralized command and control station (PCC). . This is concomitant with the commissioning of the train operation automation system (SAET) and new audiovisual means allowing the PCC to communicate at any time with travelers present on trains and stations.