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Updated: June 15, 2013 13:43 IST

Rails on a roll

Sujay Mehdudia
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Line M2: Entirely automated and managed from a central command station.
Special Arrangement Line M2: Entirely automated and managed from a central command station.

Lausanne in Switzerland has the world’s steepest metro rail system

As a debate rages in India over the issue of participation of people and having a say in formulation of developmental projects, the small city of Lausanne in Switzerland is a perfect example of people’s “participation and prevailing of their will” to engage in construction of a development project for the betterment of the city.

Lausanne is often referred to as the world’s smallest city with the steepest metro system. Located on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, Lausanne is famed as home to the Olympic organisation and for its high quality of life. A rail line from Ouchy on the lakefront to Flon in the city centre via the SBB station had been in operation for over a century. However, in 1997, operator Metro Lausanne-Ouchy sought industry response for a solution to address these factors and to create a wider range of public transport interchanges to discourage car use.

After initial hiccups and local resistance, the project was put to vote and got a go-ahead only after a local referendum was held and the people of the small town gave their thumbs up for the project. By 2003, contracts had been signed with Alstom that included the rolling stock, power supply, signalling, track and project management and a driverless automatic system as if offered cost advantages. Alstom projected that only 70 trained staff would be needed to operate M2 as it was named.

There are 14 stations. Of the total route length, about 90 per cent of the track is below ground. Retaining some of the original 12 per cent gradients, Lausanne M2 remains the world’s steepest metro. Stations are located on or near to the surface, making use of the sloping ground for varied access points with widespread use of lifts and ramps.

Marc Badoux Commercial Director, Tram de Lausanne (Alstom), who manages the M2 system, said since it began operations in 2008, it has transported nearly 100 million people. The line is six km long with 15 trains serving 14 stations. It connects the banks of Lake Geneva to the heights of the city with a differential of 338 metres between the first and last station. Certain slopes along the route have a 12 per cent gradient, which is a world record for a metro.

“The Line M2 is entirely automated, managed from a central command station. This means that it is cheaper to operate and more flexible during peak hours. The stations are equipped with platform screen doors and dedicated station personnel are on hand to assist passengers. The M2 runs on its own right-of-way, with a double track (except in the tunnel under the CFF station due to high costs), underground for most (70 per cent) of the route. The metro is the ideal solution to the security and congestion problems of the urban public transportation,” Mr. Badoux said.

(The correspondent was in Lausanne at the invitation of Alstom) 

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