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Size matters: Red faces as Paris buys too-big metro escalators

© Photo: AFP/Joel Saget | A woman uses en escalator at the Parmentier Metro station in Paris

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-15

Around 30 recently installed escalators in Paris Metro stations will need to be replaced because they are too wide, in an embarrassing blunder set to cost millions of euros to fix, transport chiefs admitted to a French newspaper Tuesday.

The finger pointing has begun already in Paris, with all sides bickering over who will foot the substantial bill which runs into millions of euros.

The infamous escalators, installed less than ten years ago, feature stairs ten centimetres wider than those normally used on the city’s metro system. The state-owned Paris public transport operator RATP had incorrectly thought that this would help boost capacity.

But it now transpires that the stairs are simply too wide to fit properly into the pre-existing spaces allotted to them, causing regular malfunctions.

This is a problem that has not only become a daily gripe for Paris’s already fractious commuters, but has also forced RATP to spend tens of thousands of euros on repairs.

“We had to put in place additional monitoring (of the new escalators) every four months that generally led to maintenance operations being carried out,” David Courteille, responsible for electromechanical engineering at RATP, told French daily Le Figaro. Such operations are normally carried out every six months on the rest of the operator’s escalators, he said.

Escalating cost

These constant repair jobs cost RATP tens of thousands of euros each year for each escalator. In comparison, the operator normally spends 100,000 every ten years on renovations for each of its normal-sized escalators.

Now, the operator has decided to cut its losses and will begin replacing the faulty escalators, located on metro lines 14, 6 and 13, between now and 2015 – a measure set to cost at least six million euros, RATP’s maintenance chief Olivier Saiz told the newspaper..

“We have estimated between 200,000 and 500,000 euros for the price of each new escalator,” he said.

RATP though is hoping not to have to foot the bill. It is seeking compensation from Constructions industrielles de la Méditerranée – the French company from whom it ordered the malfunctioning escalators back in 2006 and 2007 – which it accuses of having made “design flaws”.

The story comes hot on the heels of another transport faux pas in France. The national rail company SNCF said in May that it had ordered 2,000 trains for an expanded regional network that were too wide for many station platforms, entailing costly repairs.

Date created : 2014-07-15

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