Greater Geneva is an agglomeration that straddles France and the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Geneva, and has nearly one million inhabitants. Its economic and demographic growth presents major challenges in terms of mobility. With the increase in cross-border traffic and the problems of road congestion, it is essential to make public transit more attractive and develop a more convenient, environmentally friendly multi-modal transportation solution. Denis Berdoz, CEO of TPG, explains the challenges relating to Greater Geneva and talks about TPG’s collaboration with RATP Dev, a longstanding partner in the Geneva region.
What are the main issues around mobility in Greater Geneva?
Getting traffic flowing better is a major challenge for Greater Geneva, and in particular for the city of Geneva which has serious congestion problems, like many other large agglomerations. In this context, developing our services is a priority for TPG. We are currently in a phase of restructuring our offer, after several years of financial restrictions following the local vote to lower ticket prices. At the end of 2017 we were granted an additional public subsidy, allowing us to improve our services on many routes, by increasing the frequency of our bus and tram services. The work to extend our tram line to Annemasse has begun. This cross-border tram service, which will start operating at the end of 2019, will be the next stage in the planned development of our tram network. It will also complement other modes of public transportation, including our bus network which already crosses the border.
What challenges and opportunities does the Greater Geneva project present for TPG?
The Léman Express, the future RER express regional train service that will cross the French-Swiss border, is one of the key projects for Greater Geneva. It will become the backbone of cross-border rail transportation, and will become operational at the end of 2019. It will connect 45 stations in France and Switzerland and will serve more than a million inhabitants. Operated jointly by the SNCF and SBB (Swiss Federal Railways), the Léman Express will make public transportation more attractive, and we should benefit from that. We are confident that the Léman Express will enhance our networks: we expect passengers to eventually give up car travel and use public transportation instead. They will use our buses and trams to reach their final destinations. We are therefore going to partly redesign our network to encourage intermodal transportation between the Léman Express and our own network.
What are the specific problems relating to operating cross-border services?
We have longstanding experience and expertise in operating cross-border services. Yes, the regulations, costs, employment conditions, and technical standards vary from country to country, but we can manage those aspects. We will be extending this expertise further by introducing the cross-border tram service, which will be covered by train regulations.
How do you see your partnership with RATP Dev?
We’ve been working with RATP Dev for many years and overall we are very happy with their service. This is true of our partnerships with the GEM’Bus and RATP Dev Suisse subsidiaries, to which we subcontract the operation of some services in Switzerland and France. It’s also the case with our joint-ventures, Société Téléphérique du Salève (STS) and TP2A (Annemasse network), in which we are joint shareholders, with 47% and 49% respectively. By combining our expertise with that of RATP Dev we are a force to be reckoned with, and that is what enabled us to win the call for tenders to operate the Annemasse network. We are strongly embedded in our respective local markets, and we both have a solid understanding of the issues and good communication with local authorities.
What do you think are RATP Dev's strong points?
Locally, we are experts in our field and have much to gain from working with a more global operator such as RATP Dev. As well as its excellent knowledge of the French market, RATP Dev has acquired extensive experience internationally, which is growing every year. We benefit from their geographic presence and their global expertise. In addition, RATP Dev is used to being up against competitors, whereas that is less true for us.
Do you share the same values as RATP Dev?
Absolutely. We’re both motivated by innovation and quality of service. Like RATP Dev, we’re very active in the autonomous vehicle sector. The first autonomous vehicle was delivered in 2017, and we’ve just received authorization to start operating it commercially. Our fleet of electric vehicles is expanding, and already accounts for more than half of our services. And a commercial route serviced by TOSA articulated electric buses, using new technology, began operating in the spring. In terms of customer service, TPG came out at the top of the BEST survey, which questions customers every year about the quality of public transportation services in large cities of Northern Europe. We’re particularly proud to be ranked ahead of Scandinavian cities, which lead the way in terms of public transportation and “soft” mobility.