[FR/CH] FLIRTing with Coradias on the Léman Express network: 8 months to go

Last week, Alstom presented the first Coradia Polyvalent EMU for the Léman Express project. The event took place at Alstom’s Reichshoffen factory (FR) on the 10th of April 2019. These tri-current trains will enter service in December 2019, with the official launch of the international Léman Express network connecting France and Switzerland.

The unit that was in the spotlight on 10.04.2019 was the second train of its type, designated Z 31503/31504. 17 of these trains are under construction to run alongside 23 Stadler FLIRT EMUs on the cross-border Léman Express network, that radiates from the Swiss city of Genève into the Franco-Swiss cross-border region around it. The train services will be operated by Lémanis, a joint-venture of the french and Swiss national operators SNCF and SBB.

Alstom Coradia Polyvalent unit number Z 31503/31504 at the manufacturer’s french factory of Reichshoffen. This is one of the EMUs which will be dedicated to the LémanExpress network, along with Flirt EMUs from Stadler. Photo © Alstom

CEVA cross-border link

At the heart of this new network is the new CEVA cross-border link, CEVA being the acronym of (Genève) Cornavin – (Genève) Eaux-Vives – Annemasse, the three main stations served by this 16 km-line linking Annemasse in France with Genève in Switzerland. As of December 2019 Annemasse and Genève will be only 22 minutes apart.

Six lines, numbered L1 to L6, will form a network, dotted with 45 stations and spread out over 230 km of track. These will share the infrastructure with French TER and Swiss RegioExpress services that are not part of the Léman Express network per se.

Not one, but two types of rolling stock

Instead of having a uniform fleet, SBB and SNCF placed separate orders: 23 Stadler FLIRTs for SBB and 17 Alstom Coradia Polyvalent EMUs for SNCF.

The Coradia units are 72 meters long and are configured as suburban trains, capable of running at speeds up to 140 km/h under three electrification systems: 1.5kV DC and 25kV AC for France; 15kV DC for Switzerland.

They are designated Z 31501/31502 to Z 31533/31534 (remember that SNCF always numbers its multiple units with double-numbers, Z 31501/31502 being one set. This does not apply to multiple units with only one motor car) have the standard grey SNCF livery, combined with red fronts, roof panel and doors.

Léman Express rolling stock will be easy to distinguish from other rolling stock because of the large blue arcs on every car, on both Alstom and Stadler trains.

The 23 Stadler FLIRT trains, designated RABe 522 215-237, are bi-current EMUs (15kV and 25kV AC) and part of the existing 522 series – This ‘FLIRT France’ subtype is authorised for operation on the French national railway network since 2012. The first Léman Express FLIRTS are already in service in Switzerland since 2018.

One of the Stadler Flirts EMUs dedicated to the LémanExpress network, which will run alongside the Coradias. Photo © SBB CFF FFS