Transforming cities

As urban populations soar, rail networks are playing an increasingly important role in the quest to deliver low carbon growth – and a sustainable future

More than half the world’s population now lives in cities. Urban populations are expanding at the rate of one million people every week, with Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean experiencing the fastest growth. Today, 19 cities have a population of more than 10 million. The UN calls these ‘mega-cities’ and by 2025, there will be eight more of them.

A sustainable future
The Egyptian capital, Cairo, highlights the challenges facing cities in the 21st century. With around 17 million inhabitants, it’s Africa’s biggest city and it’s expected to grow by more than 30% by 2025. Cairo’s metro plays a critical role in easing gridlock and providing sustainable journeys for three million passengers every day. The metro is operated by the Egyptian Company for Metro and incorporates a range of Thales’ solutions that provide unparalleled operational efficiency and passenger security.

“Thales is the Cairo metro’s exclusive supplier for ticketing and supervision systems” says Siware Ghanzouri, Thales’ Area Sales Manager for Transportation Systems. Currently under construction, Cairo’s Line 3 will benefit from an integrated operation control centre, a brand-new communication network and a state-of-the art ticketing system. “Our solutions address the fact that Cairo is one of the most heavily populated cities in the world. The metro reduces people’s reliance on private cars, cuts emissions and decreases travel times across the city.”

Connecting the world
Thales’ solutions keep the world’s biggest and fastest growing cities moving while minimising environmental impact. In Mumbai, India’s financial centre, integrated communications and an advanced passenger information system by Thales will play a critical role in providing safe, efficient operations on the new Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro corridor. And in Delhi, Thales’ passenger information systems, e-ticketing and integrated telecommunications underpin seamless journeys for an increasingly mobile population.

Thales works in partnership with governments, urban authorities and transport operators to provide solutions tailored to the unique needs of each city. Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, is one such city. Thales’ communications-based train control (CBTC) solution – SelTrac – is playing a critical role in the rapid expansion of the Shanghai Metro, maximising network capacity and providing safe, reliable travel.

“Shanghai is representative of what’s happening today in Asia” says Serge Druais, Thales’ Research and Technology Co-ordination Director for Asia. “There’s massive urbanisation, but also massive investment in infrastructure – not just in motorways, but in public transportation as well. The main concept is to make public transport as attractive as possible: that means cheap, easy to use, reliable, secure and safe.”

Next year’s Expo 2010 – theme: ‘Better City, Better Life’ – will showcase Shanghai’s commitment to sustainable urban development. And with a record-breaking 70 million visitors expected, the spotlight will also be on the city’s metro system which is set to overtake London Underground as the world’s biggest.

Thales has a high profile in China’s booming transport marketplace. As well as Shanghai, milestone projects include an operation control centre and contactless multi-modal ticketing for the Beijing metro, launched for the 2008 Olympics. And further south, Thales’ operation control centres play a vital part in the smooth day-to-day running of the Guangzhou metro, while in Hong Kong, energy-saving SelTrac provides automatic train operation on MTR Corporation’s strategic West Rail route, which connects the city with the outlying north-west New Territories.

Future-proof capacity
Advanced signalling solutions, such as Thales’ SelTrac, allow operators to minimise lifecycle costs while maximising capacity, reliability and safety. SelTrac is a service proven solution that supports everything from speed and signal supervision right through to fully-automated operation without a driver.

“SelTrac CBTC allows us to get trains much closer together than is possible with traditional signalling systems” explains Dan Filip, Director of Marketing and Strategy, Thales’ Rail Signalling Solutions. “It increases capacity, so there are more trains on any given section of track and less waiting at platforms for passengers. SelTrac also supports optimised coasting and regenerative braking, so it’s possible to save energy. Solutions like these help to create a better and more environmentally friendly city.”

Global solutions
Thales is a world leader in sustainable transport technologies. As well as advanced signalling, Thales creates integrated supervision systems to increase capacity, safety and energy efficiency; seamless e-ticketing to make multi-modal journeys easy, and passenger comfort technologies that embrace everything from video surveillance to on-train information.

As well as serving markets in Europe, Asia and Africa, Thales is increasingly active in strategic territories such as the Americas. Latin America and the Caribbean are all urbanising rapidly and Thales is joining forces with operators and governments to deploy solutions that make the most of valuable transport infrastructure.

For Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, Thales has provided supervision, communications and passenger information systems for key routes on the city’s growing metro system. In the Dominican Republic, e-ticketing and integrated communications enhance journeys for passengers on the new Santo Domingo Metro. And in Chile, Thales’ signalling and network management and supervision systems play a vital role in providing smooth, energy-saving operations on the capital’s Metro de Santiago.

Attracting passengers
Road congestion and high fuel prices play a part in getting people out of cars and on to trains. But ‘push’ factors like these are only part of the story. Building passenger loyalty means focusing on ‘pull’ factors too: that means creating a travelling environment and services that are pleasant, safe and reliable. Choice, rather than compulsion, is the key to winning passengers.

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates enjoys some of the lowest fuel prices in the world and one of the highest levels of per capita income. Coupled with this, peak daytime temperatures exceed 40 degrees centigrade. So it’s easy to understand why so many citizens choose to travel by car in air-conditioned comfort. But that could be about to change.

Creating an equally attractive rail travel alternative was the challenge taken up by Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority (RTA). The result – the Dubai Metro – will be the most advanced and luxurious urban rail system in the world when the first section opens later this year. Thales is providing a complete technology package that includes SelTrac CBTC signalling for driverless operation, advanced passenger information systems, telecommunications, smartcard ticketing and security.

City limits?
Metro systems are the mainstay of low-carbon public transport within cities. Demand continues to grow – volumes on the London Underground, for example, rose by more than 30% in the decade to 2007 and the underground now handles more than a billion passengers every year. But in the search for a better quality of life, an increasing number of city dwellers around the world are moving away from urban centres, in many cases leapfrogging traditional suburbs to settle deep in the rural fringes of cities – and sometimes, in the cities beyond.

From London to Bangkok and from Shanghai to Paris, the hunger for a better quality of life outside traditional cities – and the appetite for longer journeys that goes with it – means the business model for urban transport is changing. “Rail links between cities, and between city centres and distant suburbs, are becoming much more important” says David-Claude Pichavet, Vice President Sales, Thales’ Security Solutions & Services Division.

“Rail services of this type occupy the ground between mainlines and classical metros – you have a stop every four or five minutes instead of every one or two minutes” explains Mr. Pichavet. “This is a booming market because the intention now is to bring people in far suburbs into the cities, rather than to ameliorate the internal city communication lines.”

Urban innovation
Mexico’s new Ferrocarriles Suburbanos is an example of this trend. Opened in June last year, it links Buenavista in the capital, Mexico City, with Cuautitlán 27km to the north. The journey time between stations is about 4 minutes and the end-to-end trip takes just 25 minutes. The line is expected to handle around 100 million passengers a year.

Thales’ European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling solution was chosen for the new line. ETCS offers capacity enhancements as well as unrivalled safety and future-proof flexibility. The ETCS implementation in Mexico is significant – it is the first time the system has been deployed in the Americas and the first time it has been used in urban rail.

Innovative technologies such as Thales’ ETCS and SelTrac CBTC play a vital role in an increasingly mobile world, allowing operators to provide efficient public transport with low carbon emissions. A 27km journey by electric train, for example, produces just over 1kg of CO2 per passenger and none at all where electricity is generated by renewables. The same journey made by car would produce around 3kg of carbon dioxide.

Emerging markets
Expansion of cities in the 5 million-plus population range means demand for high-capacity city rail systems remains strong. But what’s equally clear is that urbanisation is creating huge numbers of small and medium-sized cities with populations between 500,000 and five million people. According to UN estimates, there will be more than 1,000 such cities by 2025. And that’s creating demand for new, low-cost public transport solutions.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), with dedicated routes and roadside bus stations, could provide an answer. Implementation is swift – typically less than a year for a 30km ‘line’ – and costs are low. Thales’ expertise in ticketing, fleet management, satellite localisation and passenger information could help bring systems of this sort to life. “This market is developing very fast in China” observes Thales’ Serge Druais. “There are a great many towns that are going to use systems of this type.”

 (Extract from On the move#6, Spring 09)

“Transportation is more than just moving people”
Dr. Matti Siemiatycki, University of Toronto

Moving minds

Thales Group - Dr Matti Siemiatycki
Technology provides real benefits for transport operators and passengers alike. But in the battle to win hearts and minds, could perceived benefits be equally important?

The symbolic dimension of investment in public transport infrastructure has important implications for building long-term passenger loyalty and this should not be underestimated, argues Dr. Matti Siemiatycki, an urban planning and transport specialist at the University of Toronto.

“Transportation is more than just moving people” says Dr. Siemiatycki.“Travel reliability, travel safety and travel comfort are important. And I think that the idea of image is important in all three of those: technology allows you to build-in reliability in a way that may not be possible by just putting more trains on the tracks or more buses on the route.”

Creating an image of reliability helps to break down the psychological obstacles that deter people from using public transport. But to do that, transport operators should focus on what passengers actually need. “You have to compete first and foremost on travel reliability” stresses Dr. Siemiatycki.“Travel time, surprisingly, isn’t as important as people think.” Personal safety is also a critical factor. “When we ask people why they use public transport and what the barriers are, safety is one that comes up – especially for choice journeys” he observes. “We know that if we can make people feel safe, as well as actually being safe, we have a better chance of getting people to use the system repeatedly.”