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Dealing with the mobility challenge in the Geneva region

Posted: 11 November 2008 | Roland Bonzon, CEO, Geneva Public Transport (TPG) | No comments yet

In Switzerland, the Lake Geneva region, and more particularly the Geneva conurbation, is at the very heart of an unprecedented demographic change, where demand for public transport is very high. Geneva Public Transport (TPG) is one of the few creditable responses to the exponential growth in mobility, which makes its involvement in the cantonal transport policy absolutely essential.

In Geneva, any mention of mobility has to take account of Geneva Public Transport. Every day, more than 416,000 consumers use TPG services – equivalent to 151 million journeys per year – and this with a total population in Geneva amounting to approximately 450,000 inhabitants. These figures serve to confirm that TPG is the main operator in a region comprising, not only the conurbation of Geneva, but also the cross-border zones of nearby France and the canton of Vaud.

In Switzerland, the Lake Geneva region, and more particularly the Geneva conurbation, is at the very heart of an unprecedented demographic change, where demand for public transport is very high. Geneva Public Transport (TPG) is one of the few creditable responses to the exponential growth in mobility, which makes its involvement in the cantonal transport policy absolutely essential.In Geneva, any mention of mobility has to take account of Geneva Public Transport. Every day, more than 416,000 consumers use TPG services – equivalent to 151 million journeys per year – and this with a total population in Geneva amounting to approximately 450,000 inhabitants. These figures serve to confirm that TPG is the main operator in a region comprising, not only the conurbation of Geneva, but also the cross-border zones of nearby France and the canton of Vaud.

In Switzerland, the Lake Geneva region, and more particularly the Geneva conurbation, is at the very heart of an unprecedented demographic change, where demand for public transport is very high. Geneva Public Transport (TPG) is one of the few creditable responses to the exponential growth in mobility, which makes its involvement in the cantonal transport policy absolutely essential.

In Geneva, any mention of mobility has to take account of Geneva Public Transport. Every day, more than 416,000 consumers use TPG services – equivalent to 151 million journeys per year – and this with a total population in Geneva amounting to approximately 450,000 inhabitants. These figures serve to confirm that TPG is the main operator in a region comprising, not only the conurbation of Geneva, but also the cross-border zones of nearby France and the canton of Vaud.

Our contribution to managing mobility within the territory of Geneva is absolutely central to our mission. As a public sector company, TPG must constitute an alternative to the use of individualised motor transport. This implies providing a network that covers the whole Geneva region, offering an efficient service that is accessible and adapted to all categories of the population. TPG must also develop their range of services throughout the whole Geneva basin, in harmony with the other unireso community tariff operators, in order to adapt to the development and growth in the needs for mobility. One of the features of the TPG network – almost unique in Switzerland – is that it covers the whole of the canton, from the urban areas up to those regions most distant from the centre. TPG must, therefore, meet a variety of operational challenges, both in terms of service frequency and in terms of distance covered, in order to satisfy the inevitably very varied requirements of its clients.

A contract with the Geneva region

The TPG missions are described in a service contract concluded with the State of Geneva. It commits Geneva Public Transport to providing a high quality service, adapted to the needs of the population of the Geneva conurbation whilst respecting the demands of sustainable development. In return, the State of Geneva guarantees the means, in particular financial, that are required for meeting jointly produced quantified objectives. The service contract describes over a four-year period – currently the period 2007-2010 – the transport services to be provided by TPG. It grants the latter, as an autonomous public body, complete freedom in the choice of its methods and proceedings. The State recognises the competence of TPG in providing transport and therefore places its full confidence in their ability to ensure the optimum fulfilment of the fixed objectives.

Within the remit of its surveillance duty, however, the State also regularly assesses the performance of TPG. The commitments of the company especially relate to the level of supply calculated according to the number of seats per kilometre, variation in user traffic according to vehicle pay-load, and respect for the budgetary provisions. Thus, by employing the steering tool represented by the services contract and its indicators, the State can predetermine its objectives and subsequently check on whether the ordered services have been effectively provided.

The cantonal objectives relative to public transport are defined in a master plan set out at the beginning of each legislature. Every four years it redefines the desired development of the service supplied and the network for all the public transport companies, in accordance with the mobility needs of the region. The service contract between the State and TPG is drawn up on the basis of these general objectives. The first defines the framework within which the second must operate. It is the authorities, therefore, who determine the mobility requirements and TPG who respond to the demand with a suitable offer.

The TPG network comprises two complementary links, each with its own management and planning demands:

  • An urban network composed of tram and trolleybus routes that divide over long shared runs in order to ensure a very high frequency rate as well as a large range of destinations
  • A secondary peripheral network, connected at certain points to the urban network, and serving the less populated areas, mainly by bus

To offer Genevans the best possible service, TPG vehicles circulate over 219 kilometres of the urban network, a quarter of which is for the 11 tram and trolleybus routes, with 161 kilometres of the regional network served by 15 bus routes. Some on-call bus services – Proxibus, Telebus, and Taxibus – reinforce the system with cross connections and night runs.

The urban and regional networks enjoy identical development priorities: they are the inseparable parts of one and the same mission that meets the ever increasing mobility needs in the Canton of Geneva.

A network in full expansion

The Canton of Geneva is now committed to a massive development in the provision of public transport. Essentially, the master plan for public transport stipulates a growth of + 20% in the provision of public transport between 2007 and 2010. As a consequence, TPG, as the main public transport provider, have been instructed to develop their supply of services accordingly.

A construction project is symbolic of the considerable development of public transport in Geneva: the extension of the tram network connects the Geneva town centre to areas recording strong demographic growth – Onex-Bernex (in the South-West) and Meyrin (in the North-West). Work formally began in December 2007, with the opening of the tram sector linking Cornavin (Geneva main railway station)- to Avanchet, marking the end of the first stage in the future Cornavin-Meyrin-CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) crosslink, which will straddle France and Switzerland. It should be finished by 2010. This massive public transport development translates into the introduction of new tram routes almost every year, new rail halts, and the restructuring of the bus network in order to accommodate the extra traffic. The aim is also to simplify and standardise the pricing tariffs.

This project marks a complete policy reversal with regard to public transport in our region. In 1925, the rail network (tram and train) covered nearly 125 kilometres over the whole territory of Geneva. In the 1960s, only a single tram line (number 12) had escaped the removal of the tracks and the dominance of the automobile. It was not until the 1990s that the authorities decided to champion trams again, on environmental and logistical grounds. Indeed, trams are the public transport vehicle par excellence, for every vehicle enables more than 200 passengers to be carried, and its electrical propulsion makes it environmentally friendly. Since the end of the last decade, 6 tram lines have been brought into operation and the network now covers almost 16 kilometres.

This is only a foretaste of what the Genevan authorities have in mind. Between now and 2020, the completion of the Cornavin-Eaux-Vives-Annemasse rail link (CEVA project) will enable the introduction of the essential connections for constituting a veritable Regional Express Network (RER) on the Franco-Vaud-Geneva basin, capable of serving a region of nearly one million inhabitants. Geneva will then be at the heart of a closely linked network involving trams, trains, trolley-buses and motorbuses.

Vehicle fleet renewed

This is yet another theme tune for the future. TPG is now concentrating on current demands and has launched a number of initiatives aimed at whetting the appetite of both their present and prospective customers for public transport. Year on year, the TPG fleet of trams, buses and trolleybuses grows and improves, with an ever-increasing proportion of electrically driven vehicles. Our organisation has recently renewed half its fleet of buses with 113 Evobus vehicles, in accordance with the strictest European standard (Euro 5) and operating partly on biodiesel. The TPG bus fleet has an availability of some 32,000 seats. Approximately 80% of the vehicles, moreover, are equipped with particle filters.

As regards electrically driven vehicles, TPG has introduced 18 new bi-directional Bombardier “Cityrunner” trams, providing an unrivalled level of comfort. A new order is being considered, in response to the anticipated extension of the network over the coming years.

This growth in fleet numbers constitutes challenge in terms of logistics. Indeed, it means greater numbers of vehicles must be housed and parked in a precise way, so that they can be reintroduced into the network every morning. On this issue, the Bachet-de-Pesay site represents the nerve centre of TPG. Built in 1992, it accommodates 770 staff (administrative, maintenance and associated drivers) and 147 vehicles over 53,500 square metres and three levels. It consists of the depot, maintenance and repair workshops for 67 tramways and 85 buses, a 622 metre test track (trams, trolleybuses and motorbuses), the site where drivers report for duty and the offices of their management staff, and the whole collection of administrative offices for all areas of activity. The historical Jonction site, situated in the district bearing the same name, completes the facilities.

Encouraging the inclination to use public transport is now more than ever the TPG watchword. We launched a major project this year, entitled ‘Information for Travellers; with the intention of making life as simple as possible for our customers. All our new vehicles are equipped with screens and loud speakers that indicate, in real time, the next stops and possible disruptions in the network. Our ticket machines will also be completely changed in 2010; equipped with ‘touch screens’, they will simplify the purchase of tickets and season tickets, even whilst the network is becoming ever denser. Finally, we will do our utmost to keep abreast of the latest developments in information technology. We have already reacted to the iPhone craze by launching an adapted version of our internet site that can be accessed by these new mobile devices. It is doubtless no coincidence that the Best 2007 study rated us the number one public transport company in Europe, in terms of the quality of information provided to our clientele.

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