They were expected to be put back into circulation this summer. Removed from circulation in the spring of 2022 after two fires which broke out in the battery packs, the electric buses manufactured by the Bolloré group subsidiary Bluebus will finally make their comeback a little earlier than expected, this spring. “After having undergone identified and agreed technical modifications (change of battery packs and installation of a thermal fuse alarm), the first buses will return to bus depots from the week of April 1,” announced Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), which specifies that the fleet will be complete “during July before the start of the Olympic Games”. Already approved, the first buses will be “directly reinjected into the network, in particular at the Nation bus center”, tells us the organizing authority for public transport in the Ile-de-France region.

“I am very happy,” Thibaut already rejoiced at the end of January, when the RATP announced the return this summer of electric buses manufactured by the Bolloré group subsidiary Bluebus, withdrawn from circulation in spring 2022 after two fires which broke out in battery pack level. At the time, the images went viral on social media, as the electric buses caught fire so violently and quickly. But nothing is enough to worry this young 28-year-old Parisian, a user of line 71. He much prefers the Bluebus “quieter and more comfortable than the old diesels that shake and make noise that they put in our place” . “With a little luck, they will even have repaired the screens which almost never worked,” he allowed himself to be ironic.

There is no question of giving in to panic today for users, who generally share the same opinion: “if they choose to put it back into circulation, it is because the technical defects have been repaired”. “I would much rather have a clean electric bus of a classic size, rather than the huge thermal buses, which make my building shake,” says Élise, who lives at the intersection of several bus lines. As for the worry that such incidents will recur, this mother is calm: “there were no injuries at the time, right? A technical problem happens to any vehicle.” And a third user recalled that several RATP buses “have already suffered fires in recent years, the majority of which were not Bluebuses”.

For the Parisian authority, the return of Bluebus to its network is obviously good news, putting an end to several months of fierce discussions to find out who the manufacturer or the operator responsible for maintenance was responsible and who had to pay for the modifications made to the bus. “The RATP, Île-de-France Mobilités and Bluebus have concluded an agreement putting an end to the ongoing discussions between the RATP and Bluebus,” soberly indicated the Parisian Régie, which welcomed the return of the 148 buses excluded from circulation since the April 29, 2022 and the arrival of 83 others “which remained to be received at the time of the incident”. And this, in light of the organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris this year.

Same story with Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM). The organizing authority for public transport in the Ile-de-France region is satisfied that an agreement has been reached so that “all of the immobilized Bluebuses can be adapted and returned to circulation”. One of the important points of the revision consisted in particular of improving the insulation of the “engine” boxes, so that – if there is a fire – the fire cannot, or less quickly, spread to the rest of the vehicle. Moreover, “the causes of the fires – that is to say the insulation fault within the battery pack – as well as the remedies proposed by the Bolloré bus company – that is to say the change battery packs and the installation of a thermal fuse alarm – were confirmed by the independent audit report entrusted to INERIS,” recalls IDFM.

After these fires which occurred on these two buses, “extensive technical analyzes were carried out in order to identify the root cause”, also recalled the Bolloré group at the end of January, explaining that this process had made it possible to identify the origin of the fire , coming from “a specific step in the production process of a series of battery packs”. Since then, “all of the packs concerned have been removed from RATP buses”, while “Bluebus has also reviewed and changed its battery pack production processes in order to re-equip all the buses”, in turn wanted to reassure the Bolloré group . Before specifying: “in full coordination with RATP and IDFM, all Bluebuses returned to service will benefit from additional security measures”.

So many modifications made to the series of Bluebuses in question which appear today as a guarantee of seriousness, before the return to service of this fleet which IDFM wanted to be “as quickly as possible”. “The buses received their approval, which made it possible to launch the work to upgrade the vehicles. The new batteries had already obtained administrative approval beforehand,” welcomed IDFM, which speaks of “excellent news for users who will be able to benefit from more buses and who will travel more often on their usual routes”.

But probably not before the summer, since this will be done “after consultation with the competent authorities and when the staff representative bodies and agents have been informed”, the RATP would like to emphasize. But on this subject, IDFM is already announcing the color: the authority “will ensure the good performance of this return to service” of these buses which will replace certain aging models and complete the offer of land for the deadline of the Olympics.