Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Lyon, France

With buses, trams, trolleybuses, a metro system and two funicular railways, the transport system in Lyon is certainly varied.

The city is France's third largest, home to around half a million people.


Trams first appeared on Lyon's streets in 1879.  By the end of the 1950s, the network had closed.

In common with a number of French cities, Lyon has reintroduced trams to its streets.

A network of five lines is operated by Transports en Commun Lyonnais (TCL).  These run primarily to the east of Lyon.

The first of this new generation of tram lines opened in 2001.

Although the trams run on-street, they are generally segregated from other traffic.
There is a sixth tram line, the
Rhônexpress.  This links Lyon's main railway station, Part Dieu, with the airport.

Although it shares part of its route with TCL tram line T3, Rhônexpress is operated by a separate company.  Special fares apply on this service.


Lyon is one of several French cities where trolleybuses operate.  Trolleybuses are mostly used on high-frequency trunk services.  These are identified with route numbers beginning with "C".  "C" initially stood for "Cristalis", although this name is no longer used.

Four-door articulated vehicles are used on services C1, C2 and C3.  These services operate on an "open boarding" principle, with passengers boarding the vehicle through any of the four doors.

As they head out of central Lyon, these three routes make extensive use of bus priority measures.

Standard trolleybuses are used on other services.  These vehicles have three sets of doors, with passengers boarding through the front doors only.


Not all of the trunk services are operated with trolleybuses.

A number of them are operated with standard buses...




...while articulated buses also operate on some services.

Unlike on the articulated trolleybuses, passengers boarding the articulated buses are required to use the front entrance, as on all other buses in Lyon.

The network of "C" routes is complemented by a number of other services, which generally operate at less frequent intervals.

Some are operated with standard, three-door single-deck buses.


Smaller buses with also operate into the centre of Lyon.

Despite their size, they nevertheless have three sets of doors.

The electronic route displays can switch from showing the route number and destination to displaying other messages.

This one reminds passengers to board using the front entrance.  

Some services are branded "Soyeuse" (silky).  These primarily cater for short local journeys.

Route numbers are prefixed with an "S".

Lyon also has three demand-responsive bus services operating in the suburbs.

Like the trams, Lyon's buses and trolleybuses are operated by TCL.

Temporary arrangements

In summer 2015, works were being undertaken around the Hôtel de Ville in the city centre.

These works interrupted five of Lyon's nine trolleybus routes, as well as several bus services.

Some routes were curtailed short of their normal terminus.

The vehicle in this image is displaying its destination in black on a yellow background, to indicate that it is not operating to the normal terminus.

Route C18 was terminating at Terreaux, one stop short of its usual terminus at Hôtel de Ville.

Route C14 was another which was not operating its full route.

Trolleybuses pick up their power using roof-mounted poles.  However, I noticed a couple of trolleybuses operating with their poles down, suggesting that they can operate (for short distances at least) using auxiliary power.

It appears that Lyon's trolleybuses have only limited ability to operate using auxiliary power.

For the duration of the works, trolleybuses were being replaced by standard buses on some services, where these services were diverted onto roads without trolleybus wires.

On route C3, articulated buses were operating in place of trolleybuses. 

Route C13 was operating in two sections.

While trolleybuses operated the southern section as usual, the northern section was operated with standard buses.

One of the routes normally operated by trolleybuses is not part of the core high-frequency network.

Route S6 operates in the hilly Croix-Rousse area, north of the city centre.  It, too, was unable to serve its normal terminus at Hôtel de Ville.

Small-size buses were operating in place of trolleybuses.


Lyon's transport system runs at reduced frequencies during July and August.  This meant that diesel buses released from other services were available to operate in place trolleybuses while the works took place. 


I also found a standard diesel bus operating alongside trolleybuses on route C4, which was not affected by the works at Hôtel de Ville.  I am assuming this was an unplanned substitution.

Out-of-town and longer distance

Buses heading out of Lyon are operated by several companies.

Some of these regional services provide local connections within the greater Lyon area.  Where this is the case, they adopt TCL fares.

There is no single focal point for all the out-of-town services.

Some services terminate around the station at Part-Dieu.

Some serve a transport hub at Perrache, to the south of the city centre, while others terminate at other points in and around the city.

In some cases, the routes terminate at suburban metro stations, with the metro providing onward connections into the centre of Lyon.

Details of all local and regional transport services, irrespective of operator, are available on the Multitud website.

Longer-distance and international coach services operate into the transport hub at Perrache.  Operators include iDBUS and Eurolines.


Although Lyon has an airport of its own, Eurolines services include a coach link four times a day to Geneva Airport.


Lyon's historic old town is built at the foot of a steep hill.  Two funicular railways ascend from a station at Saint-Jean.  Both lines operate mainly in tunnel.

Line F1 climbs to the district of Saint-Just.

There is an intermediate station at Minimes, where the two funicular cars pass.  Each car always serves the same platform at Minimes.  Departures in each direction therefore alternate between the two platforms.

Line F2 runs up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, one of Lyon's best-known landmarks which overlooks the city.


Although I don't often include metro systems in my posts, Lyon's four-line metro is particularly interesting.

Lines A and B are automatically controlled, although each train is staffed by a driver in a cab.

Trains are powered using a conductor rail.

Line D is automatic, with no staff on board.

Like lines A and B, trains on line D collect power from a conductor rail.

Most of the trains on line D still carry an older, orange livery.  A refurbishment programme has started, however, with trains starting to appear in the white, red and grey colours already worn on other metro lines.

Line C is more unusual.  Part of its route is a former funicular railway.

The station at Croix-Paquet, formerly the the lower station of the funicular railway, is on a steep gradient.

Mountain railways with steep gradients sometimes use a rack-and-pinion or cogwheel system to give the trains added grip.  Line C also uses this system.

I have yet to find any other urban metro using rack-and-pinion.

Line C extends beyond the route of the funicular it replaced, at both ends.

At its city end, it descends in tunnel to a terminus at Hôtel de Ville.  The rack-and-pinion system extends to the terminus here.

At its outer end, Line C runs to a terminus above ground at Cuire.  The rack-and-pinion system is not needed along this section of the line.

Unlike the other three lines, the trains on line C are powered using overhead cables.

Fares and ticketing 

Fares on the TCL network are time-based.  In 2015 a single ticket costs €1.80.  This allows interchanges and is valid for boarding for an hour after it is first validated.  It can be used for a return journey.  Tickets can be bought singly or in a carnet of ten tickets at a discount.

There is also a two-hour ticket, costing €3 and allowing unlimited travel within that time.  After 19:00, a €3 ticket is valid throughout the rest of the evening.  An all-day ticket allowing unlimited travel throughout the day costs €5.50.

In addition, the funiculars have a €2.80 day return ticket, valid only on the two funicular lines.

Tickets are sold at TCL offices, agents and at vending machines at metro, funicular and tram stops.  There are also ticket machines at some stops on trolleybus routes C1, C2 and C3.

Bus drivers sell only the one-hour ticket (at a higher price of €2) and the all-day ticket.

Cycle hire

Apart from a trial Lyon was one of the first cities in France to introduce a cycle hire scheme.  The Vélo'v scheme has been operating since 2005.

Its success encouraged the spread of cycle hire schemes to other European cities.

Sightseeing tours

An open-top bus tour caters for tourists visiting Lyon.  L'Open Tour operates all year round, apart from a two-week break in January.

The Rhône, and the Saône

There are also boat trips.  Lyon lies at the confluence of the Saône and the Rhône.

Lyon City Boat operate sightseeing cruises from a quay on the bank of the Saône.

There is also a regular "Vaporetto" service along the Saône, running from the historical centre of Lyon to the confluence of the two rivers.

The Vaporetto is powered with a hybrid diesel-electric engine. 


Lyon is also a departure point for larger vessels offering longer cruises along the Saône and the Rhône.

This post describes the transport system operating in Lyon in August 2015.

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