With two months to go until the Olympic Games, the city of Rio has just given Brazil its first high-tech tramway. The project is ambitious and garners much media attention given all its innovations in a mega-city of 12.5 million inhabitants. François Destribois, RATP Dev Latin America Director, gives us the low-down on an unprecedented project implemented at a very brisk pace by the city.
What makes the Rio tramway so original?
It’s a concentrate of technologies! The tramway network is 100% catenary-free to fit harmoniously in Rio’s historic centre. It uses ground-based power supply using a third rail and super-capacitors. Modules installed on the roof of the tram store and generate energy.
What are network’s proportions?
The first section of Line 1 connecting Santos Dumont airport to Praça Maua has just been launched on 5 June. The second section will be finalised before the Olympics begin. Ultimately, the network should have tracks 28 km long with 31 stops. It will connect all the city’s transport hubs (metro, suburban trains, ferries, cruise vessels and buses). Patronage should amount to 300,000 passengers daily.
Was the project prompted by the Olympics?
The Olympic Games only accelerated the project. Of course, the tramway will help manage the influx of tourists, but it is first and foremost a structural project for the city that is part of the renovation program for the “Porto Maravilha” historic centre. The advent of the tramway is matched by the transformation of Rio Branco, one of the city’s iconic avenues, into a pedestrian area. Mayor Eduardo Paes wants to change inhabitants’ attitude to the historic centre and increase the area’s population from 32,000 to 100,000 in ten years.
What is the role of RATP Dev?
The metro operation contract was awarded to a Brazilian consortium which selected us as a partner to offer our expertise in the form of technical assistance, consulting and knowledge transfer. We assist our Brazilian partners in defining operating procedures, staff training, the trial run phase and the launch of tramway operations. At present, RATP Dev is the only French operator boasting genuine tramway expertise and operations in this region.
What were the main challenges of Rio?
Staff training, mainly. Rio de Janeiro has not had a modern tramway. It was necessary to ensure a genuine skills transfer for drivers and dispatchers in a short timeframe.
What was your strategy?
We brought the Rio teams to Paris in October for them to get used to the tram as quickly as possible, as nothing was operational in the Rio system. They attended six weeks of theoretical courses with tram experts from RATP. We then sent out a “commando” to deploy a very dense training program in Rio between March and May 2016.
What is a “commando”?
It’s a heavyweight team of experts, all specialists in not only tramways but also in transferring skills. They have worked worldwide, can adapt to all kinds of audience, impart their knowledge and ensure that it is properly acquired. The aim is to train drivers and dispatchers and also to train them in management abilities to impart their knowledge so that they can become trainers in turn.
What was the trial run phase a critical step?
The trial run phase puts teams in operating conditions, but without passengers on board. This is a crucial period to acquire experience and develop the right reflexes in situ and to become familiar with communication and signalling systems. We assigned an RATP expert to each driver during the trial run period to fine-tune critical know-how in real time on a personalised basis for travelling in cities. Skills include peripheral vision, the ability to detect inadequate behaviour and reactions to potential dangers.
Should we expect accidents?
Security has been a major concern at each step. However, Rio’s inhabitants are unfamiliar with trams running in the city, which is why the city authorities launched a vast awareness campaign. The aim is to reduce risks and avoid serious accidents. We made recommendations to fine-tune speeds and optimise signalling configuration. We also implemented full-scale accident simulations with the police and fire bridge to analyse teams’ reactivity with 360º analysis.
What will happen during the Olympics?
We will be alongside our Brazilian partners to help them manage the influx of passengers and make the right decisions in the event of incidents. This is a critical period with huge media exposure, but which should also be festive!
The 2016 Rio Olympics in brief : This is the 28th Summer Olympics and the first to be held in Latin America. - 7 million tourists expected - 34 sports sites in Barra, Copacabana, Deodoro and Maracanã - 39 test events held before the games begin - Seven million tickets, of which 3.8 million at under 30 dollars. - An Olympic village of 750,000 sq. m - 70,000 volunteers helping the organisation to work smoothly.
"Rio tram network will connect all the city’s transport hubs"