"We are currently assembling the stations," explains in Wolfurt, in the green region of Vorarlberg (west), this 34-year-old head of department, "proud to be part of the project" for the Paris region.

His employer, world number one Doppelmayr, has opened the doors of its urban cable car production site exclusively for AFP.

After Saint-Denis de la Réunion and Toulouse, projects led by the French competitor Poma, the capital region has passed the course: by 2025, Créteil will be connected to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges by gondola lifts flying over the agglomeration.

A journey of 4.5 kilometers and five stations, to connect 20,000 inhabitants to the terminus of line 8 of the metro.

The cabins will be able to accommodate ten passengers at a frequency of less than 30 seconds, or 1,600 per hour.


It was the best choice according to Laurent Probst, director of Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), the organizing authority for public transport in the Paris region. "Cable transport is clean, quiet, regular," he told AFP.

"By overcoming obstacles" such as train lines and roads, it is according to him the ideal solution to remedy the daily hardship of the inhabitants, faced with traffic jams and limited supply.

An employee works on the assembly of the first cable car in the Ile-de-France region, at the factory of the manufacturer Doppelmayr, on September 12, 2023 in Wolfurt, Austria © ARND WIEGMANN / AFP

Clever therefore, in isolated and difficult to access areas, but not densely populated enough to accommodate a metro.

And cheap. Expert Hanane Bengualou, the co-founder of IMTER, a planning consulting firm, estimates the investment per kilometer at less than 7 million euros, against more than 20 million for the tramway.

"It is an innovative solution that mobilizes little land and is quick to deploy, because it does not require major work", while making it possible to "decarbonize", transport representing 35% of CO2 emissions in France.

Of course, there are obstacles: in addition to the fear of emptiness, residents sometimes refuse to fly over homes. Administrative procedures remain complex.

Although a fly can be heard flying for most of the route, the noise when passing the pylons can be disturbing, as can the modification of the landscape, and the trajectories between stations can only be straight.

The cabins of the longest urban cable car in France connected to the public transport network of the city of Toulouse, May 12, 2022 © Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP / Archives

Many projects have been abandoned along the way in recent years, such as in 2022 in Lyon in the face of opposition from local residents.

But more than 80 cities have already taken the plunge in the world, so that the "eggs" above the heads are "no longer associated with ski resorts", says the specialist.

Climate challenge

At Doppelmayr, 130 years old and 3,400 employees in some fifty countries, urban mobility now accounts for 20% of turnover.

The group, which built "its first ski lift in the Alps in 1937", does not currently record fewer requests in the mountains despite global warming that endangers some ski resorts, says Reinhard Fitz, head of international business development.

Reinhard Fitz, head of international business development at Doppelmayr, at the assembly plant of the first cable car in the Ile-de-France region, September 12, 2023 in Wolfurt, Austria © ARND WIEGMANN / AFP

"We know of course that things are moving" in the city, he says, and "we have evolved with our customers" by expanding our offer to urban areas first in Switzerland and Italy and then with Algeria - where the cable car is well suited to a rugged topography - fifteen years ago.

It was necessary to adapt: "in the mountains, we evolve on a free meadow, while in the city, we multiply the interfaces, it involves a little work", explains Mr. Fitz.

In populated areas, mono-cable technology, the lightest, is usually sufficient, in the absence of particularly strong winds.

Yet there is still some way to convince: decision-makers are "still very attached to conventional public transport systems" and "often, the cable car is not even considered in the planning phase", regrets the executive.

Employees work on an assembly line of the first cable car in the Ile-de-France region, at the Doppelmayr manufacturer's factory, on September 12, 2023 in Wolfurt, Austria © ARND WIEGMANN / AFP

"We therefore hope that examples like the one in the Paris region" will serve as a trigger, in Europe and beyond.

After the cable cars of Mexico City or those linking the metropolises of La Paz and El Alto in Bolivia, India, with its congested megacities, could be like an Eldorado.

© 2023 AFP