Your correspondent has been in Paris gaining experience of various off road vehicles.

Here’s one, or a pair in this case. It’s the MP 05

The name means Matériel Pneu 2005, or rubber tyred stock planned in 2005.

We can see from the picture that it runs on conventional tyres, a thing not often found on the railway. But, I hear some say, tyres don’t have flanges. They’re going to fall off the rails at the first sign of a bend and the train will turn over and everyone will be killed.

Hush. They thought of that. If you look at the left hand unit you’ll see extra horizontal wheels running along a vertical guide rail. These locate the unit laterally.

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Despite that, we can see from the bogie above that there are still flanged steel wheels running inboard of the rubber ones and running above (but not usually on) conventional rails. Normally the unit runs on rollways (essentially flat, wide rails) while the rails and steel wheels are used in case of multiple punctures and for guidance at points. The Metro has converted several lines to rubber, but they’re not doing any more because it’s been deemed not to be worth it. Ride comfort is said to be better than on steel but the higher rolling resistance means high electricity bills and a hotter train in summer and you also have more maintenance.

So, what’s it like to ride in an MP05?

Ease of driving:

It’s very easy, as you don’t have to do the driving. It’s so easy in fact that nobody at all does the driving. In what can only be seen as an affront to French ideas about their superiority to all others, the otherwise French equipped Line 1 was automated by Herr von Siemens in 2011. Surprisingly for a country with notoriously militant unions, this process went ahead fairly smoothly with the headcount reduced from 240 to 30. Siemens have since been contracted to do the same with Line 4. You can sit in the front then and see where you’re going, a strategy which lets you see just how close some of the city centre stations are - on straight sections you can see one from the other.

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Performance:

Adequate for the job in hand. The maximum speed is limited to 80 kmh, in practice you usually do nearer 50 as you don’t get much of a chance to accelerate.

Comfort:

It’s public transport. You have to share it with the general public, some of whom are rather too general. You wouldn’t want to look too closely at the seat coverings or the floor. It’s reasonably comfortable though if you get a seat.

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Safety:

The unions would never admit this, but you’re likely to be better off without a human doing the driving. Others are too. People have a distressing tendency to choose trains as their method of suicide and without a driver or the kind of technology you get on a Tesla the train has no way of stopping in time. The cure for this is platform gates which only open when the doors of the train are in line with them - and they are, because the computer always stops the unit exactly in the right place.

Cost:

An MP 05 would set you back about €10m. Fortunately though you only need a ticket, of which you can get ten for €14.50.

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Overall:

Excellent value for the price, if you’re not actually buying it.