45 minutes of traffic jams in the evening. 45 minutes of traffic jams in the morning. Public transport saturated at peak hours. It is very common in the Paris region, but also... in the heart of the Pacific. This is what is experienced every day by Tiphaine Cherbonnel, a night nurse in Dumbéa, about 20 km from the capital of New Caledonia.
In New Caledonia, Greater Nouméa and its 180,000 residents (some 200,000 by 2020) has for a long time faced structural problems of traffic and the low level of public transport provision. This pitfall has exacerbated territorial inequalities, increased car pollution and reduced social diversity.
In this context, AFD is involved in the creation of Néobus, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, meaning rapid, regular and priority buses with dedicated traffic lanes, accessible to people with reduced mobility.
The Néobus project is fully in line with AFD’s overall strategy. It addresses the issues identified: support for economic initiatives, territorial rebalancing, a solution to urbanization issues and the development of the territory’s environmental assets.
To solve these problems, the Urban Transport Authority (SMTU) was set up in 2010 under the impetus of the Intermunicipal Authority of Greater Nouméa (SIGN). “The increase in the population, combined with Nouméa’s urban organization as a peninsula, causes a bottleneck at the entrance to the city”, explains Marc Zeisel, President of SMTU and Deputy Mayor of the city of Nouméa responsible for Transport. Néobus provides a response to this pressing need to decongest the capital and its suburbs.
Start of the works. To implement the project, the local public enterprise Secal was awarded the public service delegation and is responsible for all the works. The city is changing alongside the Néobus: sidewalks widened, cycle paths, pedestrian area, trees, street furniture, lighting... A virtuous circle: “Other projects have been added to Néobus, such as the upgrading of the water, sanitation and electricity networks and the installation of fiber optics”, points out Catherine Glanois, Project Manager at Secal.
Commissioning of the entire Néobus network. Néobus is the first concrete achievement of Tanéo, the future major public transport network, which is unified at city level. A total of 200 buses will be commissioned for the Tanéo network by 2025. The objective: have a single public transport network, providing a structure to Greater Nouméa, with a single ticketing system to ensure a faster transfer of users.
This loan is also financing investments in the ticketing system and passenger information for the future comprehensive Tanéo network… The total investment cost up until 2025 is estimated at EUR 251m.
SMTU is the contracting authority for this Bus Rapid Transit system. The first 13.3 km phase (out of a total of 24.6 km planned in the long term) will connect Moselle Bay, near Nouméa Market in the city center, up to Médipôle, the largest station on the network. According to Christophe Lefèvre from SMTU: “Public transport is by nature a vehicle for social ties and meets the needs of a section of society which does not have access to a car”. In New Caledonia, 15% of households cannot afford to buy a vehicle.
Up until now, the city’s South and North neighborhoods suffered from a “major cut-off effect, especially because of the lack of transport services”, explains Christophe Lefèvre. “These neighborhoods will finally be connected. The fact of being able to overcome administrative and geographical barriers will make it easier for social landlords to build along the entire route.”
A number of innovative projects are on track, for example, in Dumbéa with an MK2 cinema in 2019 and a student residence – with AFD’s support – in 2020. “The Néobus service is a key component of the attractiveness”, confirms Marie Benzaglou, Director of Partnerships at the New Caledonia Housing Company. “AFD’s objective”, adds Karine Martin de Frémont, “is to improve mobility in the city, allow people who have no other choice but to use public transport to easily get to their workplace, get training, have access to healthcare, leisure activities, etc. This is also AFD’s role!”