Place Mendes France, Gare Routiere

38090 VILLEFONTAINE    (originally at C.C. Servenoble, 38090 Villefontaine)

This is certainly not a country bus! Nevertheless, the business existed only from 1978 until 2014, is now part of the past, and merits the telling of its story. 

It is not frequent to be able to look at the development (….or not) of road transport in a New Town. My only personal experience dates from the 1960s, when the construction of Basildon New Town razed the village of Vange, and my grandparents’ home, to the ground.

In France, new towns were in vogue from 1965 to 1972, during which time 9 were started, but all in the Ile de France region except Lille Villeneuve d’Ascq (north), Etang de Berre (Provence), and Isle d’Abeau.

The decision to build at Isle d’Abeau was taken in 1968. The objective was to create an ‘overspill’ town between Lyon and Chambéry. Detailed studies began in 1969, and on 10 January 1972 came the important step of the creation of an EPIDA (Etablissement Public de l’Aménagement de l’Isle d’Abeau), a local government body with full powers to move the project forward.

The new town under construction

Part of the Ville nouvelle Isle d’Abeau under construction

map of the new town to the east of Lyon

Map of the new town, its surface area and its proximity to Lyon and to the airport. 

EPIDA delegated day-to-day business to the SANIDA (sometimes shortened to SAN) – the Syndicat d’agglomération Nouvelle de l’Isle d’Abeau, which developed the site from 1984 until 2005.

At the beginning of the story, 21 communes were to become integrated into the new town.  But as a result of the Loi Rocard in 1983, 16 withdrew, leaving just – in order of size – Villefontaine, L’Isle d’Abeau, St Quentin Fallavier, Vaulx-Milieu and Four.

To all intents and purposes, the Ville Nouvelle became an ordinary “communauté” in 2007 when the SANIDA became the CAPI (Communauté d’agglomération Porte d’Isère), which exists today. The EPIDA soldiered on until 2009, when it became the EPANI (Etablissement Public d’Aménagement du Nord-Isère), before ceasing all activity on 31/12/2011 and handing over residual responsibilities to the CAPI.

So what of the buses? Firstly, here are some population statistics to show what the potential  passenger numbers were. We must also bear in mind that the SNCF only opened their Isle d’Abeau station on the Grenoble – Lyon line in 1985.

    Date        Ville Nouvelle        Villefontaine         Isle d’Abeau
    1968             4.243                           452                    75
    1975             7.888                        1.694                  897
    1978                 entry into service of Bus Express
    1982            17.428                        9.719                1.290
    1990            29.588                       16.171               5.554
    2006            42.952                       18.407              13.430 (2003)
    2012            43.485                       18.890 (2015)  16.282 (2015)

The first step was taken in December 1973. EPIDA introduced a Villefontaine – La Verpillière service, subsequently extended in November 1975 to Chesnes and St. Quentin Fallavier.  A little earlier, in October 1975 a proposition was drawn up and put forward for inclusion in the Plan Départemental des Transports. 

This had two routes:-
 - A suburban route would run from Villefontaine  to Satolas (now St. Exupéry) airport, initially 3 times daily Mondays  to Saturdays at 7h, 8h, 19h operated by Cars Ricou
 - The existing urban route Villefontaine – La Verpillière – St Quentin Fallavier (authorised on 11 April 1974), would be operated by Cars Faure.

A sample of the proposed fares – single 1,40F (4,20 F for suburban Satolas);  monthly season 28,00F (60,00 F for Satolas).
There was no surprise as to the bus companies operating – they were the only ones who had submitted a bid!

combined route timetable December 1975

The combined route timetable in December 1975

SNCF connections

Information is provided on connections to Lyon at La Verpillière Gare SNCF

By 1976, EPIDA had transferred responsibility for transport to SANIDA, who had slightly different ideas. Faure took over the airport service (later transferred to TRANSIDA).
SANIDA asked for new bids in July 1976, for routes or frequencies they hoped to be operational by the beginning of 1977. They wanted the urban route to run 5,300 kms per month. They wanted the Satolas service to offer 4,400 kms per month. And they wanted a new route from the New Town to Lyon. To be called Bus Express, it would have its terminus at the Gare des Brotteaux, and offer 8 returns Monday to Friday, 4 on Saturdays, with no Sunday service.

They had carried out a survey on how many actively employed inhabitants were interested in a Lyon commuter service. The answer was 60% overall, with the following breakdown:
    St Quentin        59%    102 out of 172 polled
    La Verpillière   50%    44 out of 87
    Villefontaine    71%    72 out of 101

The (GIE) SARLTransida (RCS 998 318 612) was set up on 11 Feb 1976, partly to federate the operators who ran routes along the proposed Villefontaine corridor, but also essentially because the EPIDA wanted a single company to negotiate with. Nine operators each held equal shares – 25 each of 100F for a total capital of 22,500F. They were :
    SA Vienne Voyages, rue Victor Hugo, 38 Vienne
    Henri Annequin – Cars Annequin *
    SA Cars Berthelet *
    SA Cars Philibert *
    SA Cars Dubois, avenue Pravaz, 38 Pont de Beauvoisin
    SARL Cars Dauphinois, 38 La Tour du Pin
    Regie VFD *
    SARL Cars Faure *
    SA CEA Autocars Ricou, rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011 Paris (Purchased by Cars Faure in 1978)
        * Still exist in 2018

The  first gérants were Raymond Faure and Jean Alberti.
Transida managed the allocation of routes amongst its members.
As such, it was a non-profit making company, distributing the net profits to its members:
    ‘000 F      Turnover     Net profit    staff
    2004        2.714                0                2
    2005        3.119                0                2
    2006        3.062                0
    2007        3.082                0
    2008        3.088                0            SANIDA becomes CAPI
    2009        932                   0
    2010        955                   0
    2011        935                   1
    2012        972                   0            End of the EPANI
    2013        0                    (4)

Michel Annequin managed the business from 2005 to 2014, when it was wound up, with Raymond Faure as the liquidator.

Transida notepaper

Transida  notepaper. The administrative address is that of Cars Faure

Proposed Bus Express timetable

Proposed Bus Express timetable drawn up in December 1976

In October 1976 things were moving. A Setra S80E proposed for the urban route was already in service, an S53 for Satolas was in service, and two 50 seat Berliet PR14 were on order for Transida to operate to Lyon.
An operating cost assessment placed the S80E at 0.94F HT per km; the S53 at 1.02F, and the PR14 at 1.15F.
In was only on 17 March 1978 that the Bus Express provisional agreement came through, valid 2 years, for Villefontaine to Lyon. There would be 7 returns Monday to Friday and 3 on Saturdays. The fare must not be less than an equivalent second class SNCF ticket less 10%. EPIDA gave TRANSIDA a guarantee of minimum revenue.

The inaugural journey took place on 09/06/78.

invitation to the inaugaral journey

An invitation to the inaugural journey

route map

The route map


The timetable

An 8th journey was added on 01 April 1979. After 1 year, there was a 60% occupancy rate. From 01/01/80 duplicates were put on at peak hours, and a proposal in June 1980 to increase service frequencies would require a third vehicle.

Then the statistics arrived. In 1976, the two existing routes ran 112,500 kms, had income of 118,000 F but cost 472,000 F – a deficit of 354,000 F.
And in 1978, planners published their “dream network” for 1982 - two sub-centres, Bourgoin & Villefontaine – each with about 30,000 inhabitants, each requiring 3 routes and 9 to 12 vehicles – km to be run 320,000 at Villefontaine  and 610 000 at Bourgoin.  An interconnecting route between the two centres would require 3 vehicles and run 170,000 kms annually. This never happened for 1982, but was a fair reflection of bus services at the end of the 90s.

Bus Express was going to require an extension of its authorization in 1980. This involved 4 authorities -  Prefecture of the Isère (original authorization 24/08/76), CTD Isère and Rhône (20/01/77), and the Ministry of Transport. On 04/12/1980 renewal was sanctioned for 2 years to 31/12/1982.

There were negotiations as to the possibility of VFD participating in this service – the VFD Roybon to Lyon route covered the same ground. Nothing came of this.

In the month of October 1979, Bus Express carried 10,000 passengers (60% season tickets). The average occupancy rate was 23 passengers per journey, with a peak of 56 on the 06.50 Villefontaine departure. Expected 1979 year end figures were – 80,000 passengers, 705,000 F expenses, 380,000 F receipts, 325,000 F deficit.

1991 timetable

1981 timetable continued

The 1981 Timetable

1982 timetable

1982 timetable continued

The 1982 timetable

The request to the Prefectures of Isère and Rhône, made on 19/05/82, for an extension to 31/12/84, must have been accepted.

Three generations of vehicles:


Cars Faure PR

Cars Faure PR 14SL 5075WL 38 in Bus Express livery


Cars Faure SETRA

Cars Faure

Cars Faure Setra S215 6615ZL38


Cars Faure SETRA

Cars Faure Setra S315UL  478 BQC 38 at La Villette

The modern administrative history of the route is as follows:

Still operated by Cars Faure, it became 192 in the Isère Department series (see 1994 photo), then, at a date I am not sure of, route 1920 in the new Isère route numbering system. Some journeys were extended to Bourgoin. In 2012, Car Postal France won the route tender, in circumstances that led to a court case (but that is another story). That date coincides with the liquidation of Transida, which no longer had a useful function. Car Postal currently operates the route as the 1920/1930/1940 Bourgoin/Isle d’Abeau/Villefontaine to Lyon La Villette.

Clive D’EATH  -  28/10/2018 

Note  -  this is a site of historical record and does not contain current service information
Nota  -  Il s'agit d'un site d'archives historiques et ne contient pas de données actuelles