Mass transit expert makes 14 recommendations to better the Paris ‘RER B’
With 983,000 daily users, the RER B, connecting Paris to its suburbs and the Charles de Gaulle airport, is the second busiest RER commuter line in the Paris region. Despite this, the commuter line has been described as “the ‘sick’ line in the Ile-de-France network” by Valérie Pécresse, President of Île-de-France Mobilités and the Île-de-France region. A mass transit expert has made 14 recommendations to solve the line’s dropping punctuality.
An audit of the RER B line by Yves Ramette, a mass transit expert and former Director General of RATP and SNCF Réseau Île-de-France, commissioned in March 2023 by Valérie Pécresse was officially presented earlier this month, along with a 14-point action plan. The goal of this plan is to significantly improve the robustness of the line and travel conditions for users, firstly by gaining a better collective understanding of the line’s major challenges, and the reasons behind the drop in punctuality since 2015.
The long-term target for punctuality is an average improvement of punctuality by 1 per cent per year and 95 per cent by 2031. This report is a continuation of the investment of nearly 3.5 billion euros already launched several years ago, with the order for 146 MI20 trains and the “NExTEO” signalling and traffic control system, a financing agreement signed last year, on 12 October 2022. This collective undertaking involves all the line’s stakeholders, including Île-de-France Mobilités, RATP, SNCF Transilien Voyageurs and SNCF Réseau.
5 core challenges
According to Île-de-France Mobilités, “The diagnosis is clear: RER B frequently suffers from numerous operating incidents and has increasingly ageing rolling stock and infrastructure that are no longer adapted to the growth in passenger numbers and the expectations of users. Added to this is a multiplicity of players, making interfaces and information sharing more complex, as well as a volume of work that is also having an impact on the smooth running of the line.”
The action plan, which the Île-de-France transport authority will steer, has been built around 5 major challenges, defined as “restore rolling stock availability in line with needs, adapting traffic management to mass transit, strengthen coordination of works, strengthen the positive dynamic in the governance of RER B, and developing shared tools and information systems.”
A comprehensive 14-point plan has been unveiled, aiming to revamp the operation of the RER B line and enhance the travel experience for commuters. This plan sets short- and medium-term objectives for operators, some of whose actions could be implemented as early as the end of 2023, in order to limit the impact of major disruptions as much as possible and improve travel conditions.
These recommendations encompass a wide spectrum of improvements, ranging from adapting the refurbishment of MI84 trains to boost fleet availability and increasing the efficiency of the Mitry maintenance site. Additionally, the plan calls for the establishment of contractual performance targets between SNCF Réseau and IDFM, a reorganisation of responsibilities to make RATP and SNCF more jointly accountable for the entire line, and the implementation of a shared scheduling tool between SNCF and RATP. This tool, applicable to both Massy and Mitry sites, will facilitate the planning of technical interventions on rolling stock under maintenance control and the development of a system to locate trainsets in the northern segment of the line.
The plan also emphasises the importance of guaranteeing direct track usage when CDG Express is introduced, prioritising RER B in disrupted situations, and pooling work between infrastructure managers SNCF Réseau and RATP. Additionally, it focuses on improving coordination at the Mitry workshop, reinforcing SNCF Réseau’s response resources for quicker resolution of infrastructure incidents, and facilitating regulatory changes within the SNCF perimeter to adapt to the unique characteristics of RER B. To enhance overall traffic operations, the plan recommends the implementation of tools at key points on the line and regular evaluations of the effectiveness of systems designed to minimise external incidents, such as flow regulators on platforms, addressing passenger discomfort, and deploying dog teams. Lastly, the plan underscores the need to unify information systems and practices to record incidents and their impact and periodically conduct critical analyses of this data to report on long-term trends in the line’s performance.
The last point is “Formally implement the Single Command Centre (CCU) for RER B and D.” For this last action, Valérie Pécresse emphasised that Île-de-France Mobilités strongly support this single centre and that she had approached the operators at the beginning of the year. When the report was submitted, she confirmed that the operators had found the technical solution for setting up this single command centre for RER B and D. She confirmed that funding has been earmarked in the CPER and by Île-de-France Mobilités and that it will be operational in 2030. Its action will be decisive in avoiding cascading incidents and reducing the duration of incidents.