Interview with Jean Souchal
POMA CEO Jean Souchal speaks about intra-urban cable transport – a centerpiece of the French manufacturer’s portfolio.
POMA is a major player in urban ropeway transportation. How did the company build this success?
JS: POMA celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2016. The company started operating in the field of winter sports and snow products, but we have always had a strong international presence as well as a keen interest in changes occurring around the world. With regard to urban transport, the concept was reborn in Medellin, Colombia, in 2004, when POMA built the first Metrocable there. POMA is now the world leader in construction and operation of urban ropeway transportation.
Medellin is often cited as an example in terms of mobility.
JS: Medellin, which was named „Innovative city of the year“ in 2013, is one of the first cities in the world to develop „aerial tramways“ as a means of urban transport. Officials were innovative and set the example by investing in ropeway transportation, which helped develop an intermodal, smooth and sustainable model for urban travel. Human mobility has become a major social and environmental issue for the cities of the future, and Medellin was the first one to understand it, paving the way for this new, unique and intermodal urban transport mode. We have built 5 Metrocable lines over the past 13 years: the 4th one has just been commissioned, and the 5th one will be finished this year. Each month, several million passengers travel safely on board POMA Metrocables, over the streets and traffic jams, to commute to work or to get around.
POMA-Ropeway in Mendelin. Photo: POMA
Could you give us a few figures about the facilities developed in Medellin?
JS: The aim was to implement a reliable and sustainable transport mode, available all year round. So far, we have built 5 gondola lifts for a total of 11.9 km in length, over 16 stations and 360 gondolas. With an availability rate in excess of 99.5%, POMA demonstrated that its urban gondola lifts could operate safely, reliably and all year round, just as any other means of public transport.
Urban ropeway transportation systems remain underdeveloped in Europe, compared to South America. How do you explain that?
JS: Yes. After Medellin, Rio (Brazil), New York (USA), Zacatecas (Mexico), Oruro (Bolivia), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Santiago (Chili), Nijni Novgorod (Russia), Alger and Tizi Ouzou (Algeria) and several other cities around the world have chosen to develop urban ropeway transportation, and we have built gondola lifts and aerial tramways there. In Europe, and particularly in France, the legislative framework and existing modes of transport were the main obstacles, but the law and people‘s perception of ropeway transportation are moving in the right direction, and very quickly so. Ropeway transportation now appeals to people, particularly in France where an increasing number of cities are considering this solution to improve public transport networks.
POMA-Ropeway in Mendelin. Photo: POMA
Speaking of France, you are going to build the first POMA urban gondola lift there.
JS: Yes indeed, the SMTC Tisséo (Syndicat mixte des transports en commun de Toulouse or Joint association for public transport in Toulouse) chose GROUPEMENT POMA, which is composed of French companies POMA, ALTISERVICE, BOUYGUES TP RF, SYSTRA, SEQUENCES and SETI, to carry out the future south urban aerial tramway project in the Toulouse conurbation.
It is scheduled for commissioning in early 2020. We are very proud of the opportunity to build this system in France. The facility will be a disengageable 3S model, running over 3 kilometres and comprising 3 stations. It will also be the longest urban aerial tramway in France. It will be a true reference in the field, and will allow us to demonstrate on a large scale, in a European country, how ropeway transportation is now a core aspect of urban intermodality and addresses urban planning and transport issues - representing a major solution for the future.