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  October 2015
Cote d'Azur 2000:2015
Celebrating 15 years of Photo-Transport

The Cote d'Azur is situated on the French and Italian coast of the Mediterranean Sea and stretches from St Tropez in France in the West to San Remo in Italy in the East.   This 300km of coastline is home to the rich and the famous but also has pockets of deprivation especially around the main city of Nice.   The bus network is therefore designed around the needs of the local residents, the sizeable business community and tourists who descend in their hordes in the summer months.   Nice has by far the largest bus network but smaller ones exist around Cannes, Antibes, Monaco, Menton and San Remo.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Big Changes
In the last 15 years there has been more evolution than revolution in bus operation in the Cote d'Azur.    The main change has been the introduction of trams to Nice and the transformation of the city centre particularly Avenue Jean Medecin which is almost unrecognisable since the removal of the trees and the consequent pedestrianisation.   The trams operate one route in the shape of a U, with park and ride sites at each end.   Such has been their success that a further two routes are being planned/built featuring an extension to the airport and an ambitious project to create a transport and commercial hub there.

Small Changes
More mundane has been the establishment of the Lignes D'Azur network which includes operations of Nice City and many local operators the largest of which is RCA.   Branding has been introduced on all the routes, both urban and interurban covering services as far as Cannes and Menton.   Other local networks still exist in Cannes (Palm Bus), Antibes (Envibus), Grasse (Sillages), Monaco (CAM), Menton (Zest) and San Remo (Rivieri Trasporti).   There are also small operations in St Tropez and Frejus/St Raphael.   Another significant change has been the long overdue demolition of the Gare Routiere in the centre of Nice.   An appalling, dark place it was reduced to rubble in 2012 to be replaced by an extension of the gardens that already cover the route of the former river.   The new bus station is even further out of town but is airy and welcoming.

  History of  Photo -Transport
Photo Transport was founded in 2000 and is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.   When it was created, Google was only two years old and Flickr hadn't even been invented.   There were effectively no photo sharing websites which was one of the reasons Photo Transport was established.   The original goal was to publish two photo articles every month - one featuring buses and the other concentrating on other forms of transport but principally ferries.   The features were broadly based on the "Pictureview" section of Buses Magazine that used to appear in each issue in the centre two pages.   The idea was that each article would be themed and that both modern and classic shots would be used.   However it soon became clear that the regime of two articles per month was too onerous and therefore the routine of only one article was adopted rotating amongst different types of transport but mainly buses.   To simplify the publishing process standard page layouts evolved and two major ones are currently in use today.   Videos have recently been introduced and there are occasional restaurant recommendations for fellow travellers.   The last 15 years has seen dramatic changes in the use of the internet and hand held devices.   What will the technological world and Photo Transport look like after the next 15 years ?
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Vehicles and routes
Several of the local networks have been renamed and reliveried but the mainstay of all the fleets is still predominantly French (or Italian) vehicles with a smattering of Van Hools in Monaco and Setras on RCA services.   There are also the trolleybus survivors on the route from Ventimiglia to San Remo, one of the few remaining systems in Italy.   More unusual vehicles to note are the sizeable fleet of gas buses that Nice introduced in the early 2000's and the Mercedes artics that now ply the Nice to Menton route.   The major growth area in the last 15 years has been Sophia Antipolis, the business park located near Antibes.   A new bus station has been built, new services introduced and the frequency of previous ones vastly increased.   It's hard to believe that only 20 years ago there was barely a bus from Antibes to Sophia Antipolis even at peak times.   Congestion remains a constant thorn in the side of the operators with many vehicles displaying the dreaded "complet" (full) due to bunching on busy routes.      To alleviate some of the issues with timing more direct services to Nice Airport have been introduced.

The best time of the year to visit is June or September - it's hot, cheap and there's not many tourists.  August is almost unbearable and there can be rain in April/May and October.   Envibus and the Lignes D'Azur network offer cheap 1EUR and 2EUR single tickets so there's no excuse not to experience a journey on a bus in the Cote d'Azur.


Cd'A 2000:2015 - San Remo to Nice

Photo Facts

  • Communauté d'agglomération de la Riviera Française, Menton 303 (715BSG06), a Heuliez, seen in Menton in June 2009.   Menton is anther town that has gone through several re-branding exercises and now calls itself Zest.   This shot is taken less than a mile from the Italian border.   There are no local cross-border routes, possibly because there is a regular train service.
  • Monaco is a small but perfectly formed principality that lies between Nice and Italy.   Although it is only about 2 km2 it is served by six bus routes and over 40 vehicles.   The resident operator Compagnie des autobus de Monaco (CAM) is one of the few operators in the Cote d'Azur to have dabbled with hybrid vehicles.   This is HD91, a Van Hool 330, seen when new in June 2012 with the Royal Palace behind and above.
  • Monaco Le Grand Tour operate a small fleet of these open top vehicles that pass such well known landmarks as the Monte Carlo Casino, seen in June 2012.
  • Nice tramway opened in 2007 and transformed the main city of the Cote d'Azur.   Avenue Jean Medecin, where tram 019 of Lignes D'Azur is seen in June 2010, was formerly a dense tree-lined heaving mass of buses and cars and is now a pedestrianised boulevard fit to grace any fine European city.   The trams also sweep through Place Massena which is also now completely car free on their way between two out-of-town park and ride sites.   Such has been their success that a further line is planned to Nice Airport and then onto the new football stadium.
  • Step across the border from Menton to Ventimiglia and the traveller goes from the serenity of France to the madness of Italy in one short hop.   Riviera Trasporti is the resident operator in the area, providing the usual orange painted urban buses and blue inter-urban ones.   More unusual in many respects is this Irisbus Agora painted in blue and white livery.   This small batch jointly operate the service with trolleybuses from Ventimiglia, where 9607 (EL599LW)  is seen in September 2013, to San Remo.
  • San Remo has one of the few remaining trolleybus operations in Italy with a route to Ventimiglia and another local service.   Rivieri Trasporti IM703,a rather elderly Bredabus, is seen in San Remo bus station in June 2010
  • Sporting the recently introduced Zest branding is DB041AG, a Mercedes Cytios minibus, in Menton in September 2015.
  • Nice has a large collection of gas buses, as represented by 205 (205AZC06), an Irisbus Agora artic, seen near the Acropolis in June 2008.  This blue and white livery has now been superseded by the orange and white version.
  • Nice has a grand railway station which surprisingly has few bus routes serving it.   One of them is the 23 the local route to the Airport, on which Irisbus Agora 086 (BX623HL) is seen in June 2012.
  • Open top tour buses have only comparatively recently started to serve Nice.   They are operated by Soc Transports Touristique Nicois (STTN) whose 383AWK06, an East Lancs bodied Neoplan, is seen on Promenade des Anglais when new in September 2003.
  • A Monaco Van Hool seen in June 2002 being driven by a man apparently wearing an ice cream seller's white jacket.   This sartorial elegance is not exceptional - the police in Monaco all wear white gloves.
  • The mountainous terrain of the Cote d'Azur does not naturally lend itself to express coach services.  The odd Eurolines route that serves Nice is now facing competition from iDbus who are operating to Milan.   Their CN376LN, an Iveco is seen at the airport in September 2013.


Cd'A 2000:2015 - Nice to St Tropez

Photo Facts

  • One of the forgotten towns of the Cote d'Azur is St Raphael/Frejus.   More correctly it is two towns - St Raphael has the shops and the buses, Frejus has the restaurants and the beach.  It lies between Cannes and St Tropez and can be reached by an incredibly scenic bus or rail journey.   The town itself is served by Agglo with a small fleet of vehicles that operate on local routes that radiate from the new carbuncle of a bus station which is adjacent to the rail station.   While the concrete was being positioned, the bus station temporarily moved to the quayside where 9504 (853BGY83), a Heuliez GX107, is seen in June 2008.
  • RCA owned by Veolia are the principal suburban operator in the Cote d'Azur.   As well as operating the trunk routes from Cannes to Nice and Menton to Nice they can be found in other towns such Cagnes-Sur-Mer where 123154 (CL930EC) an Irisbus Crossway is seen heading from Grasse to Nice.   It is showing the often seen destination "complet" (full) even though it is more than 30 minutes away from its Nice.
  • Sophia Antipolis is a technology park near Antibes that provides employment for many of the the locals.   Formerly it was served by a handful of irregular services, but recently since a bus station was opened it has begun to thrive.  An essential link for business is the express to Nice Airport on which RCA 978ARL06 is seen in June 2002.
  • The main operator in Grasse and Antibes was formerly STGA (Syndicat Intercommunal des Transports Grasse-Antibes).   They were re-branded Sillages and then split into two with Envibus now responsible for services around Antibes and Sophia Antipolis.   Their 207 (AL262XA), a Solaris Urbino, is seen at Antibes bus station in June 2012.
  • Varlib provide the same umbrella in the Var Departement as Lignes D'Azur do in the Alpes Maritimes.  851BSW13, a MAN Lion is seen in St Tropez bus station about to leave on the 7601 service to St Raphael in June 2010.
  • Grasse, famous for its perfume, is set in the hills behind Cannes and is slightly less manic than the resorts on the coast.   It lies at the end of the Route Napoleon which starts in Grenoble and has the feel of an Alpine town.   Several of the bus routes too head for the hills, although 750AH06 a standard Heuliez of Sillages is seen here on a local service in May 2005.
  • Unlike many other countries in Europe, bus stations in France are not often found beside rail stations.   So imagine the surprise for the locals in Antibes in 2015 to discover that a new bus station has been built beside the main line rail station.   Most of the routes in and out of the town have been diverted to serve this place where Envibus 142 (CD22BP), a Mercedes Cytios minibus is seen in September 2015.
  • Cannes is probably the most photogenic bus location in the Cote d'Azur.  It has a compact bus station at the end of the Croisette where all the local services as well as those to Nice and the airport depart.   A smaller bus station also exists beside the rail station for routes north of the town.   If you want to see palm trees this is the place for you so perhaps it's not so strange for Palm Bus to be the latest branding introduced in 2014.  There are several variations of the livery with the Palm Express version being carried by 412 (DA183GL), a Heuliez GX137 seen in the bus station in September 2014.
  • Top of the list for congestion in the Cote d'Azur is the trunk 200 Nice to Cannes service operated by RCA.   Nominally there is a 15 minute service but tourists soon learn to expect a bus when it appears.   Bunching is rife and the dreaded "complet" is often the destination as one whizzes by.   Setra's are now the order of the day with 6067 (CN126YW) seen at Golfe Juan in September 2013.
  • The 200 serves the airport for local traffic and is surprisingly busy with that trade even though there are dedicated express routes to most towns in the area.   Seen heading for Nice and the airport from Cannes in June 2009 is Setra 6048 (578BSB06) of RCA.
  • The only true regular express service in the Cote d'Azur is that operated by Car Phoceens from Nice/Airport to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.  There are currently five departures a day most of which are non-stop via the autoroute.   Their Setra 878AMS06 is seen in Antibes (no longer served) heading for Marseille one lunch time in June 2002.
  • Bus Azur was the branding used by Cannes for nearly 20 years.   Their 343 (293BWW06), a then new Heuliez GX137, is seen loading in the bus station in June 2009.


Cd'A 2000:2015 - Clips
  Envibus in Antibes in 2015 Bus Azur in Cannes in 2010 RCA in Monaco in 2015 RCA at Nice Airport in 2015 Tram in Nice in 2012



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Then these may be of interest ..

Photo-Transport has been publishing themed articles about Public Transport for over 15 years.

If you enjoyed the above article you may be interested in these articles which were first published in August 2000 and September 2000.

  Nice to Cannes
Route in focus
Bleakest Bus Stations
featuring Nice




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