Urban rail wins Cote d’Azur mobility bet

After investments of billions of euros in urban and inter-urban rail transport, Cote d’Azur has won the mobility bet. The final phase of a project worth over EUR 700 million – Nice Tram Line 2 – will be completed this September.

The history of the West-East line of Nice tram began on 4th December 2009 with the organisation of a referendum on drafting the guidelines of the evolution of the urban transport network until 2030.

Further on, actual works were launched in October 2013 and full commissioning of the line is expected in September 2019. With 20 stations and measuring 11.3 km, the line follows the city’s West-East axis with two branches in the West: a northern branch of 1.7 km from Saint-Augustin to Nikaïa and the Departmental Administrative Centre (CADAM) and a southern branch of 1.9 km from SaintAugustin to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport.

The lines then come together on a joint route of 7.7 km from Saint-Augustin multimodal hub in the West towards eastern districts. The tram line continues in the underground in the city centre (four stations below ground on a distance of 3.2 km) up to Nice Port. Following a public tender, the contract for the construction of the tunnel, underground stations and in and out mouths has been assigned to Thaumasia consortium with Bouygues TP as leader.

Cadam – Magnan section was put into operation on 30 June 2018 and the tram reached the airport the same year in December. “From now on and above all, the West-East Line is yours. It will facilitate your travel, even at peak hours, and will revolutionise mobility in the area. Due to the two interconnections with tram Line 1 and with the future Saint-Augustin hub, transport will become multimodal and the West and East hills will get closer. More than just a transport project, the establishment of this line will contribute to urban requalification favouring improved life quality in our metropolis. More nature and more public green spaces: now more than ever, fewer cars (and therefore, less noise and pollution), an optimised systematisation of public space: now more than ever, our city proves to be the green metropolis of the Mediterranean”, declared Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice and delegate president of Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

A financing mix for the urban rail

Indeed, with only three minutes between trams, the West – East line will become an undisputable alternative to road transport. The tram is capable to travel at 70 km/h on the underground section. With a commercial speed of 25 km/h, one of the highest in France, the tram is a timesaving alternative for both residents and tourists.

Line 2 of Nice tram and its two intersections with Line 1 provide connections between the large activity centres (port, airport, the Palace of Congresses and Exhibitions), the old city, but also the developing districts, such as ÉcoVallée (Grand Arénas, Les Moulins and Nice Méridia).

For the construction of this tram line, actually more of a light rail, if we consider the fact that the lines are separated from the road, dedicated to car traffic, and that it has an underground route on a distance of 3.2 km, the authorities have approached a financing mix. The total cost of the project amounted to EUR 721 million (2013 value), of which EUR 203.23 million were ensured through

subventions, as follows: the state (Banque des Territoires) – EUR 57.49 million, the Departmental Council of Alpes Maritimes Region – EUR 50 million, South Region – EUR 39.2 million, European funds (ERDF), Nice Municipality – EUR 50 million. Moreover, the company of airports

provided EUR 12.6 million – costs for the tram network on its territory. Last but not least, there were also loans worth EUR 500 million: the European Investment Bank – EUR 250 million and Banque des Territoires – EUR 250 million.

New generation rolling stock

Regarding the rolling stock, the Citadis X05 units selected from the West-East line of Nice tram have been designed and manufactured by Alstom at its La Rochelle factory, on a new production line.

The factory, one of the biggest in France, is specialised in the production of units for TGVs and trams. Each month, this production unit delivers up to ten trams.  Back to Cote d’Azur, thanks to its static ground charging system (SRS), a world premiere, the new Nice tram is the first equipped with Citadis Ecopack energy storage system. A revolutionary technology associated with a strong on-board energy storage device so that the tram is fully autonomous between the two stations. And needs only 20 seconds to charge.

The batteries featuring a very large energy-storage capacity (13.5 kWh) are placed on the tram roof. The batteries are charged with energy with the help of a shoe that descends between the rails on the system at tram stops. Thus, the tram travels through the city without overhead lines and blends perfectly into the urban landscape. This technology has been selected because there are bridges where the height and configuration of the surroundings would not allow the use of catenaries.

Reduced energy consumption

Also, more than 30% of energy is saved thanks to an innovation of Alstom. At braking, the vehicle recovers the energy used to slow down the vehicle and recharges the batteries.

On the other hand, the well-positioned heat probes allow adequate temperature adjustment inside the tram. This way, heating or air-conditioning are turned on only when necessary. The Alstom-manufactured units consume four times less energy for lighting than other trams due to a LED technology for a more efficient, aesthetic and energyconsumer lighting.

The low energy consumption for lighting is also influenced by the fact that 40% of the tram surface is dedicated to windows. This also contributes to the passengers’ comfort, next to comfortable seats, luggage areas (let’s not forget that tram Line 2 provides a link to the airport) and the eight large information screens.

Residents had a say in the design

Accessibility is ensured by the seven double doors on each side of the vehicle. Also, passengers can walk from one end of the tram to the other very easily. Moreover, the trams are equipped with full-accessibility technology for people with reduced mobility. For extra safety, the vehicles are equipped with security cameras.

To get the residents’ opinion in selecting the design of the trams travelling on the new West-East line, Nice Municipality organised a public debate. On the occasion, 14,886 people voted for ochre, inspired by the proposal of designer Ora Ïto. This is the city’s symbol colour representing the facades of Nice buildings or Masséna Square, for example.

“An efficient and innovative tram, this is the choice we have made for the best possible comfort of Nice citizens. Thanks to its technology, this <made in France> unit gives our metropolis an international aspect”, declared Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice.

Multimodal points on the route

To facilitate travelling on the West-East axis, the route includes several multimodal points, such as that in SaintAugustin, providing a direct connection between the tram and the other transport modes – air, rail, buses, cars, bikes.

The commissioning of this tram line has been doubled by the reorganisation of the bus network. Schedules have been reduced to favour a maximum immediate correspondence between tram and bus, especially due to the generalisation of the common platform concept evert time space allows it. The West-East tram line will generate a 20% drop of car and bus traffic (down by 1,000 passengers/day) on Promenade des Anglais.

The tram lines are on Avenue de Californie, an artery parallel to the famous Promenade des Anglais. This will obviously reduce pollution and noise. At the same time, Vélobleu points placed next to tram stops facilitate bike rental for simpler, economic and stress-free travelling.

With the former public transport system, 70,000 people were crossing Nice from West to East and back every day. The new West-East tram line will accommodate 105,000 passengers every day once fully operational and will easily meet its target of 140,000 passengers/day. In Nice Côte d’Azur metropolitan area, the West-East tram and Line 1 will carry 260,000 people, which means two thirds of the population, while daily travelling will be facilitated.

For example, a bus journey from Nice Port to the airport takes 63 minutes at peak hours, while the same route by tram is crossed in 26 minutes, which means a 59% reduction of travel time.

Attention to trade and environment

The construction of a tram network connected to multimodal points is an important factor for increasing the attractiveness of the area for companies. Actually, the authorities emphasize the fact that economic activities were not forgotten in this urban rail project on the Mediterranean Sea coast. “By enabling access to trade and services, the new railway will strengthen the attractiveness

of the metropolis for economic decision-makers and tourists. An essential factor for the vitality of the territory, but also for the preservation and creation of jobs”, said Lignes d’Azur (the company providing urban and interurban transport on Cote d’Azur) on their web site.

To support economic activity during construction works, specific measures were adopted for traders in partnership with Nice Municipality, the city’s Trade and Industry Chamber, the Chamber of Skilled Crafts of Provence Alpes-Maritimes, and Nice and Cote d’Azur Trade Federation.

Over 77,000 square metres of green spaces were created, and 2,400 trees of different species were planted on the route of tram Line 2. On the other hand, tens of oranges were cut on Avenue de Californie for the construction of the tram lines, but Nice Municipality wanted to level things up by “greening” other places.

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