Jason Saundalker Talks About Smart Urban Mobility’s Role in Helping Cities Achieve Smart Ambitions

RATP Dev is a subsidiary of the RATP Group. The firm’s mission is to develop, operate and maintain new transportation systems around the world.

Posted in Industry Updates


Established in 2002, RATP Dev is a subsidiary of the RATP Group. The firm’s mission is to develop, operate and maintain new transportation systems around the world, by drawing on the experience and know-how of the RATP Group.

RATP Dev now operates across the Middle East, working on large-scale public transport systems and operations. Its experience spans metro, bus, tramway systems and other ancillary services, and it is keen to work on regional transportation projects through its regional headquarters in the UAE.

A joint-venture between RATP Dev and SAPTCO were recently awarded the contract by the ArRiyadh Development Authority (ADA) to mobilise, operate and maintain the future bus network in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The network will be operated initially using a fleet of around 1,000 vehicles and will include three BRT lines, 21 commuter lines and more than 60 feeder lines (permanent and transport on demand). These lines will be introduced into service in three phases and will ultimately ensure 90 million kilometres annually, targeting to transport more than 100 million passengers every year.

With Automechanika Dubai 2019 showcasing state-of-the-art technology solutions, Laurence Batlle, chairwoman of the executive board of RATP Dev, reveals how smart urban mobility solutions will help cities achieve their sustainable and smart ambitions. She starts by talking about Dubai, arguably the most ambitious city in terms of its transportation plans in the region.

“Dubai has already emerged as a global hub sitting at the intersection of urban development, technology, data and mobility,” she remarks. “Its success is very apparent in many fields, and perhaps especially with the award of World Expo 2020, where mobility is an essential element. Dubai is already innovating, rapidly supported by strategies for AI, IOT, data wealth, blockchain – and innovation itself.”

Batlle explains that a smart city entails the combination of a physical network – an integrated multimodal mobility solutions – and a digital network – the high-speed broadband network, which is the backbone of the digital experience.

“Together, they connect government, people, business and of course data. Access to mobility and a passenger-centric approach – easy, accessible, safe, secure, comfortable, sustainable and affordable – is a major factor in determining the quality of urban life,” she says. “The smart city of Dubai is a great example of the adoption of world-class public transport development with a visionary approach. The share of public transport in Dubai has risen from 6% in 2006 to 17% in 2017, and the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) has set a target of 25% of all journeys to be driverless by 2030, in order to reduce congestion and carbon emissions.”

The challenges and opportunities of the sustainable smart city are driving the transformation of the mobility industry, she adds and are therefore increasing the recognition that the future of urban public mobility innovation must be people-centric, technology-enabled, sustainable and inclusive.

“In a visionary region that is pioneering ambitious smart cities on an unprecedented scale, the vision of the city planners must be matched by urban mobility companies, which are today facing a double challenge,” she remarks. “The first challenge is to maintain existing legacy urban transport infrastructure, to optimise working lives. The second is to make exciting new urban mobility possibilities a reality in the smart city.”

With automated transport systems being regarded as representing the future of transport across the globe, Batlle believe we will soon see the impact of automation with new driverless metro infrastructure.

“By 2020, 75% of new metro systems will be driverless. The RATP Group is a pioneer and a leader in automated metro lines. It all began in Paris when Line 14, the world’s first high-capacity automated line, entered service in 1998. Passengers quickly appreciated the innovation, and the figures speak for themselves – the number of passengers taking Line 14 has risen in fifteen years from 100,000 to 700,000 passengers a day,” she notes.

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Greater punctuality and reliability, and the ability to adapt transport supply to demand instantaneously, are all reasons explaining the line’s success.

“The system’s multiple benefits prompted thinking to automate Line 1, the oldest and most heavily used in Paris. The project to automate Line 1, without any traffic interruption, was completed at the end of 2012. As of today, we are still the only operator in the world that has automated an existing high-capacity metro line.”

Batlle divides progress in mobility advancing in many different areas with automated vehicles high on the list: “Automated transport systems represent the future of transport across the globe, and one exciting area is the fully autonomous vehicle.”

Beyond the vehicles she remarks that transportation is also needing to change the passenger experience: “Passengers’ needs and expectations are changing fast, and the key is to understand and respond with new on-demand services.”

The handling of data will be critical to those managing the transportation systems of smart cities.

“Smarter cities are an opportunity to shape and build these new urban environments on the platforms of high-speed connectivity, driving big data analytics to model operational information and passenger movements to achieve optimum efficiency in tram services, for example,” she says. “Cities are changing, mobility is changing and passenger expectations are changing. This demands constant innovation. The digital transformation and disruption of public transport is putting the passenger at the heart of the mobility experience, with new innovation opportunities for all who are able to embrace them.”

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a common catch-phrase within the transport sector but is less well-known beyond the sector. Batlle explains that the concept descrines an integration of various forms of transport services into a single mobility service, accessible on demand.

She adds: “To meet a customer’s request, a MaaS operator facilitates a diverse menu of transport options: public transport, ride-, car- or bike-sharing, taxi or car rental/lease, or a combination. For the user, MaaS can offer added value through use of a single point of entry to provide access to mobility, with a single payment channel instead of multiple ticketing and payment operations.”

Measuring the performance of transportation projects is going to be key to ensuring their immediate and future success. What should authorities look to measure?

“The drive for mobility innovation is aimed at building the sustainable smart cities and communities of the future. This means that the work of mobility companies should not just be measured only in terms of kilometres or passenger numbers and travel times, but on the much broader impact they make on a community in three important areas – skills transfer and employment opportunities, social inclusion for staff and passengers, and social responsibility.”

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