Avignon Tram Opens In France

It seems the French clearly understand the benefits of light rail, well they should, because they have studied both LRT and light-metro (VAL).

Like Vancouver’s SkyTrain, VAL was made by MATRA, the famous arms manufacturer and in the 1980’s the general political thought was, if no one used  VAL for transit, it would reflect badly on MATRA’s arms sales. Thus the French government  in a political diktat tried to force French cities to build with VAL, even financing the initial line.


French civic politicians (unlike BC politicians), are ever mindful of the public purse well understood the huge costs of light metro, especially future expansion and upkeep costs and in the end, only a handful were built, as study after study showed that “Le Tram”, was the the best option for both the customer and the taxpayer.

Today, Siemens owns VAL and is marketed mainly as an airport people mover and only eight such systems have been built.

This month the City of Avignon is opening their new tramway.

The 5.2 km line cost €135 million (CAD $190.75 million) or CAD $36.7 million per km to build. Due to political interference, the line is short, thus per km costs are higher, but when one thinks that TransLink is building a 5.8 km subway under Vancouver for over $3 billion, “Le Tram” certainly seems far better value for money and far better value for the taxpayer and customer.

Avignon light rail line opens

Oct 22, 2019
Written byQuintus Vosman

THE French city of Avignon inaugurated the first phase of its new light rail service on October 19, a 5.2km stretch with 10 stations from Saint Roch in the south of the city centre to Saint Chamand, the location of the mainline station in the southeast.

Oct 21, 2019 | News

Journeys between the termini on Line T1 take 15 minutes and are served by 14 three-section LRVs supplied by Alstom. The 24m-long, 2.4m-wide vehicles are a shortened version of the Citadis X05 and use 750V dc traction. They have capacity for up to 140 passengers and have a maximum speed of 70km/h.

Services run at 5-6 minute frequencies between 06.00 and 00.00 and are operated by Orizo, the public transport operator in the greater Avignon area, while Grand Avignon is the line’s owner. Existing bus services have been optimised to coordinate with the new service.

Plans for the project were approved and developed in 2011-13. However, inauguration of the project was in doubt in 2014 when the newly-elected mayor vowed to cancel the scheme. The result was a modification to the plan, scaling back the project from three lines to one and the cost from €330m to €135m, with construction getting underway in October 2016.

Expansion of the network is still planned through the construction of Line T2. Construction is currently scheduled to start in 2021 and conclude in 2023. There are also plans to extend Line T1 to the north while additional sections could be added to the LRVs to meet future demand.

Avignon’s previous tram system was closed in 1932.



6 Responses to “Avignon Tram Opens In France”
  1. The numbers just make you want to go to France and not come back! CAD $36.7 million per km to build in Avignon. Mon Dieu!

    We have Translink numbers of $600 million per km for the UBC subway; and $200 million for Skytrain Surrey extension on overhead viaducts.

    We don’t have a reliable number for building a tramway on Broadway. What has been published assumed a complete reconstruction of the street from building front to building front (99 feet R.O.W.). Then, redoing all the subsurface infrastructure. Clearly, that was overkill.

    UBC studies peg the price of building tram on Broadway, the BCER R.O.W. to Chilliwack, or anywhere else in the Mainland and the Valley, at $50 million per km.

    That makes it 12-times cheaper than a Broadway subway and 4-times cheaper than the Surrey extension. But there is more.

    Friends of Rail for the Valley have suggested that on local streets that already have electrification for trolley service, the cost of building an Avignon system might be reduced by $25 million per km. This because the substations and the span wires are already in place.

    That makes tram on streets that have trolley 24-times cheaper than the Broadway subway and 8-times cheaper than the Surrey Skytrain extension.

    Yet, Vancouver Council voted today to approve the Broadway Plan’s Guiding Principles and gave staff the green light for phase II.

    Since Broadway is fully electrified, the cost of tram vs. subway would be in the order of 25/600 or 4%. Put another way, tram on Broadway was denied yet again even though it represents a 96% discount over the Skytrain subway.

    The disparity is so great not because trams like Avignon are cheap. The disparity reaches these proportions because of the outrageous price for Skytrain.

    And yes, in so far as SNC Lavalin is involvedf, there have already been shady dealings brought to light.

  2. Haveacow says:

    What is really interesting is the set plan the French have to guide the idea through their planning process and into the construction phase. I believe this is Surface LRT/Tram system number 31 or 32, so they are quite adept at bringing LRT from concept to reality. What’s amazing is almost half of these LRT systems are in cities or towns with an area population of less than 400,000.

    What I found out is that, the most restrictive part of their transit development process is how and when tunneled sections are needed for LRT projects. So the people planning, designing and implementing an LRT line go out of their way to avoid needing tunnels at all. Fully knowing each tunnel section is going to significantly slow down the entire process, greatly increase costs and generally make their immediate futures miserable. So the people putting the whole LRT line or extension project together, have a real incentive to keep tunnels to a minimum. This effects the final cost in positive way as well.

  3. Rob says:

    Well, that’s the French for you and 200 plus years on from that pivotal Revolution and overthrow of absolute monarchy and the feudal system we in Canada and on the west coast have learned nothing. We seem hell-bent on resurrecting that sorry, pre-1789 darkness. Worst of all the citizens – who would not know a crisis (unless called climate) or better yet a guillotine and what to do with it – are in lockstep with their own worst interests.

  4. macron says:

    The broadway subway is an extension of an existing metro. Makes more sense to extend then build something new. I have been on many LRT in France like in Nice, Bordeaux and Avignon. They are so slow, it is faster to walk.

    Construction already started on the broadway extension. Last weekend, utilities are being moved from underground. No stopping it now. It will open in 2025.

    Zwei replies: First of all, there isn’t the ridership to justify a subway. Secondly, your comment about the speed of the trams is pure bullshit. As a troll who does not understand LRT, the trams run on a dedicated/reserved rights-of-ways, which means they operate unimpeded.

  5. Macron says:

    There is plenty of ridership to justify a subway. People said the same thing before the Canada Line was built. Ridership increased after it was built. Ridership will increase on broadway. Zwei just doesn’t like skytrain wants her LRT instead.

    Zwei replies: You don’t have a clue do you. There is not plenty of people to justify ridership, in fact even 50 years hence there will not be the people to justify a subway.

    The Canada line was built with very little capacity and at present, the best it can achieve is a little more than 6,000 pphpd. As all Richmond, south Delta/Surrey buses are forced to transfer their riders and Richmond expanding population, the trains are full, but nowhere near the ridership to justify its construction. I just read a report bemoaning the fact that at best, the Canada line will only carry a maximum of 9,000 pphpd and that is with al;l the new cars in operation, which will not happen for another decade or so.

    By the way, you are using two email addresses, a mark of a troll.

    Trolls, it seems, do not read.

  6. Harrison L. says:

    Absolutely nuts!

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