The RhônExpress is a direct-rail link between downtown Lyon and Lyon-Saint Exupery airport in France. The link is operated by the concession company, RhônExpress. It is the first railway concession in France to offer train services from a city centre to an airport.
RhônExpress link was opened for business in August 2010. The link runs to a length of 22km and has four stops including the two end stops. The link was designed to allow speeds up to 100km/h between Meyzieu and the airport. RhônExpress is expected to carry one million passengers annually.
In February 2001, the General Council of the Rhone and the urban transport authority for Lyon metropolitan area, SYTRAL, unveiled plans to introduce a double streetcar between Lyon Part-Dieu, Meyzieu ZI and Lyon Saint Exupery. The first line between Lyon Part-Dieu and Meyzieu ZI, now called T3 links, was commissioned in December 2006. The SYTRAL led construction of the T3 links project.
A concession contract for the second line of RhônExpress link was signed between the General Council Chairman and RhônExpress in January 2007. The project was declared as a public utility in July 2008 and construction began in October 2008. The infrastructure was built and rolling stock was delivered by 2009. The trial operations were commenced in February 2010 and commercial operations began in August 2010.
This express link between downtown Lyon and its airport was developed by a public-private partnership. The project cost is estimated at €120m, of which €40m was received through grants, €62m were borrowed by RhônExpress and the rest was contributed by the shareholders. This debt will be repaid with the support of the Department, which provides an annual retainer.
The RhônExpress consortium is responsible for the full implementation of the project design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance.
The design and construction were managed by subsidiaries of VINCI and Eurovia Railway Works (ETF), Cegelec Centre Est, Campenon Bernard Management, South East EJL and Roiret Transport. The Rhone CFTA is responsible for operation and maintenance of the link. The line will be managed by a consortium lead by VINCI for a period of 30 years.
The link has a total of four stations on the route with two intermediate stations (Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie and Meyzieu ZI). The 22km route includes a new 7km line created between Meyzieu ZI and the station Lyon-Saint Exupery.
All stations on the RhônExpress link are accessible from the ground floor or via elevators. Each station features a control panel in braille indicating different levels. The information terminals at the stations indicate the train schedules and audio messages are announced for passenger convenience.
The electrification for the new 7km line consists of two new sub-stations and an overhead contact line. The 750V DC overhead contact line can accommodate trains operating at 100km/h.
The support infrastructure includes an operations maintenance centre, offices, access roads and storage sidings for rolling stock, a sand loading station and a washing station. The trains run every 15 minutes from 6am to 9pm and every 30 minutes between 5am and 6am, and between 9pm and midnight.
The rolling stock was designed and built by the Swiss manufacturer Stadler. Currently six trains roll over the link and each train carries up to 75 passengers.
All doors are automatic and allow entry and exit of persons in wheelchairs or with pushchairs. Each train features two specific areas each with a grab bar to provide stability for people in wheelchairs during travel. A seat belt is also provided to hold the chair.
The Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport handled eight million passengers in 2009 and is expected to receive ten million passengers by 2012. Since the RhônExpress link is the principle mode of transport for the airport, the consortium has allocated funds to acquire new trains in future. The four stations were already sized to accommodate double trains.