Postcard from... Paris


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The Independent Online

The Paris Metro used to be one of a kind: the trains came frequently and tickets were cheap.

It had an unmistakable Metro odour - a blend of cheap perfume, sweat, garlic, burned rubber and Gauloise cigarettes. Passengers would shove each other sullenly  to get on a train before other passengers could get off.

Many of these defining characteristics are disappearing. The Metro smell is now a faint memory. The trains are cheap and efficient. Some oddities remain, however. The Paris Metro is one of the few railways in the world which uses ticket-sized tickets. The standard Metro ticket is the same shape and almost the same size – roughly one and a quarter inches by two and a quarter inches – as those pioneered by a British stationmaster, Thomas Edmondson, 172 years ago.

Even more astonishingly, travellers have started to be polite to one another. According to a poll published this week, there has been a two per cent decrease in the number who shove their way onto trains while others try to get off, and a 24 per cent reduction in those who use priority seats (for the pregnant, old and infirm) when they have no right to do so.

No Metro smell, less bad behaviour. Oh dear. Let’s hope they leave the tickets alone.