Paris suspends Bluebus use after fires

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Parisian public transport operator RATP announced on 29 April that it would temporarily suspend the use of 149 electric buses made by French manufacturer Bollore’s Bluebus division following two fires. Images of the buses were widely shared on local and social media. The operator said the buses would be temporarily taken off the streets of the French capital as a precaution after the two fires.

The buses are of the Bluebus 5SE model, and the most recent to catch fire was operating on the city’s route 71 in south east Paris. Local and national media widely reported that the bus gave off thick clouds of black smoke and a strong smell of burning plastic. The blaze was extinguished by around 30 firefighters.

“The bus driver immediately evacuated all the passengers. Nobody was hurt,” RATP told the press.

A similar bus had previously caught fire on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in central Paris on April 4 whilst operating on route 86. The fire destroyed the vehicle but there were no injuries. In this instance, it was reported that passers-by alerted the driver to smoke coming from the vehicle, which was immediately evacuated.

Bluebus is part of the empire of French billionaire Vincent Bollore, whose interests range from transport and logistics to media. It is reported to generate around €24 billion per year in revenue, and there are around 80,000 employees across the group.

Bollore’s 12-metre electric buses have become a familiar sight on the streets of Paris, advertising their electric credentials. Batteries, which the company says are of a ‘new generation’ of Lithium Metal Polymer (LMP) battery with ‘high energy density and optimal safety,’ are fitted on the roof and at the rear of the vehicle. Bollore’s Bluebus offers six and 12 metre buses.

The 100% electric vehicles are manufactured in France, at Ergué-Gabéric in Brittany where the Bluebus and Blue Solutions factories are certified to ISO 9001. Cells, batteries and buses are all produced at the same industrial site.

The company claims to have more than 400 Bluebus vehicles operating worldwide. Its collaboration with RATP began in 2014 with its first buses entering service on the Parisian bus network in 2016 on line 341. Today, the Bluebus 12-metre buses are also in use on routes 29, 69, 72, 115 and 126.