Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday 16 December - Riding Paris Trams.

I had intended to get out fairly early this morning.  However, Mary decided to wash the shower curtain and, in an attempt to speed up the drying, finished up repeating the entire wash cycle.  I had visions of the shower curtain being locked in the washer for the duration.  In the end I showered without the benefit of a curtain.
Today, being a Monday when many places are closed, I decided to ride Paris trams.  One interesting feature is the number of times I crossed the Seine which meanders through the Paris area so there are many bridges.  It was a  bright sunny day and each crossing was interesting and different. Armed with a zones 1-4 Mobilis ticket, I took the metro to Asnieres to ride tramway T1 to Marché St. Denis.  This is an extension that was opened about a year ago.  The trams are small and heavily over crowded, the up side being that the journeys seem to be quite short.  Threading this line through a fully developed suburb was quite a planning triumph - there is one section where the two lines part to pass either side of a church.  Some grass is used on the right of way and at one location there were signs that someone had attempted unsuccessfully to drive down the grass.
Tramway T1 at Asnieres
At Marché St. Denis I transferred to line T5 which was opened this summer and runs to Garges Sarcelles.  This is a rubber tired tram using a single guide rail with the propulsion being via rubber tires, four on each side.  The roadway is concrete throughout which seems to be wearing in places giving a poor ride.  This may be cheaper to construct but the trains are short and the cars are cramped. I think the RATP will regret having taken the decision to use Translohr rather than a conventional two rail tramway.  On the way back to Marché St. Denis we were treated to an emergency brake application and then the driver omitted to open the doors at one station - much to the chagrin of a large number of the passengers both on and off the tram.  This system is not much of an improvement on the existing buses which are much more flexible and probably more comfortable.
Tramway T5 at Marché St. Denis
Tramway T5 at Garges Sarcelles
 At Marché St. Denis I boarded another very full tram to ride to the end of the T1 line at Noisy le Sec.  There was some congestion at the end and we were let off a little before the terminus while the returning trams sorted themselves out. The T1 trams are over ten years old and were designed 15 -20 years ago. They need to be replaced with newer higher capacity vehicles.
Tram congestion at Noisy le Sec
Tram waiting to leave Noisy le Sec
The RER took me one stop to Pantin and I set out to find the tramway T3b.  A lady crossing guard told me it was a long way to walk but it turned out to be about two blocks.  I was consulting a local area map when I was waylaid by an old man who asked where I was going.  It turned out that he was going on the tram as well and dragged me across several road crossings against the light and got me on the tram in one piece.  He was going in the same direction so he told me about how good the trams were in particular and the French transport system in general. As a pensioner he was able to travel cheaply and asked about Canada - he definitely would not like the cold winters.
Tramway T3a at Porte de Versailles.
I changed trams at Porte de Vincennes, had a pn break in a McDonalds and went through to Porte de Versailles.  This is an interesting route, most of the way being in a grassed centre reservation.

At Porte de Versailles I transferred to tramway T2.  Here the trams bear more resemblance to railway trains and all were running in multiple, making up six car trains, something that the other trams cannot do.  This line is built over a former railway right of way and the original stations can be seen. In some places the signalling is railway type.  I went all the way through to the end at Pont de Bezon and then returned to La Defence.  The newest section, from La Defence to Pont de Bezon, is almost entirely in a centre reservation among recent plantings of grasses and shrubs - some of them being almost two metres high.
Tramway T1 at Pont de Bezons
From La Defence I caught an ancient electric train into Saint Lazare and the metro back to Villiers.  A long but interesting day.

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