Keolis announces big plans for transport in French département

Transport operator Keolis has outlined some big plans for the SMBTA network in the Gard region of France, including hydrogen buses and a carpooling scheme.

Ales, France, could soon see big changes to its transport network.

The Syndicat Mixte des Transports du Bassin d’Alès (SMBTA), in the French region of Gard, has renewed its trust in operator Keolis for the operation and maintenance of its entire NTecC public transport network, which will be renamed Ales’Y from 1 April 2021. All mobility services will be refashioned under this new name according to Keolis, which will include for example Ales’Y by Bus, Ales’y Carpool, Ales’y by Bike and Ales’y by Scooter.

The new contract, lasting nine years and eight months, began on 1 January 2021 and will generate cumulative revenue of over €120 million.

Between now and the end of the contract, Keolis says it will continue to transition its vehicle fleet to cleaner energy, which will result in the deployment of France’s first public carpooling network, the development of new mobility services and the introduction of a hydrogen-powered bus.  

Intended to serve the city of Alès and 101 other municipalities of the SMBTA, which has 147,000 inhabitants, the current network, called NTecC, is structured around 113 lines (13 urban, 25 suburban, 8 lines serving the markets, 60 school lines and 7 on-demand transport routes), city centre electric shuttles, and an electrically assisted bicycle rental service. In order to respond more precisely to the mobility needs of this partly rural area, the newly branded Ales’Y network will integrate 25 additional lines and add 100 additional bicycles, bringing the rental fleet to 200 bicycles.

A third electric-powered shuttle will also be added to the free city centre service, following the launch of two similar vehicles in 2020.

Keolis also plans to launch the first public carpooling network in spring 2021, structured around 10 main traffic routes in the region, with the aim of reducing the number of daily private cars on the road. Municipalities located on these routes will have a pick-up/drop-off point for carpooling or bus stops that will be served by the driver, who will be compensated for each journey made with at least one person.

A service of 50 electric scooters, to be paired with the launch of the carpooling network, will allow people sharing a ride to benefit from a transport solution for the “last mile” of their journey in 2021, according to Keolis.  

Additionally, to support the conurbation in its desire to accelerate the energy transition in its region, Keolis says it will initiate an evaluation process for vehicles running on alternative fuels. From May 2021, a first 100 per cent hydrogen bus will be trialled on lines 1 to 4 of the network. 

Passengers will also be able to benefit from the launch of the Ales’y mobile app from spring 2021. Passenger information will be significantly enhanced through this app, which will in particular enable customers to obtain real-time information about the next bus passages.

Eventually, Keolis plans for the entire fare range to go paperless, with the purchase of tickets possible both online and on mobile.