The route is 23 kilometres (14 mi) long, and served by six tram-train sets, built by Swiss manufacturer Stadler Rail. The route from the airport to the city’s business center at Part-Dieu Villette (Lyon-Part-Dieu railway station) by way of Vaulx-en-Velin – La Soie (for transfer to Metro Line A) and Meyzieu takes roughly half an hour. Services run every 15–30 minutes.
The project included building 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi) of new tracks, while the remainder of the route runs along the existing T3 tram line, on which passing tracks were built in some stations to allow express service. The service is independently run and is not a part of the TCL system, although it appears on TCL maps. The Conseil général of the Rhône franchised the operation of this line for 30 years to Rhônexpress, a consortium including Vinci SA (28.2%), Veolia Transport (28.2%), Vossloh Infrastructure Service (4.2%), Cegelec Centre Est (2.8%) and the Caisse des dépôts et consignations. It opened on 9 August 2010.
During February 2001, the General Council of the Rhone and SYTRAL, the urban transport authority for Lyon metropolitan area, announced their intentions to introduce a double-deck streetcar service that would run between Lyon Part-Dieu, Meyzieu ZI and Lyon Saint Exupery. Upon completion, it would become the only public transportation system between Lyon and Saint-Exupéry. SYTRAL oversaw the construction of the initial line, commonly referred to as the T3 Links, which ran between Lyon Part-Dieu and Meyzieu ZI; its commissioning in December 2006 represented a major milestone for the project.
During January 2007, a concession contract covering the second line of the RhônExpress was signed by both the General Council Chairman and RhônExpress consortium, the latter being responsible for the full implementation of the project, including design, financing, construction, and maintenance activities. This new link between downtown Lyon and its airport was developed under a public-private partnership (PPP). Its estimated cost was stated to be €120m; it was financed by the consortium through various means, €40m was received through several grants, another €62m came through borrowing by RhônExpress, while the remainder was contributed by its shareholders; all debt is to be repaid with the support of the Department, which provides an annual retainer to the consortium.
During July 2008, the tramway was declared to be a public utility; construction work commenced three months later. Both design and construction were managed by a variety of companies, including VINCI, Eurovia Railway Works (ETF), Cegelec Centre Est, Campenon Bernard Management, South East EJL and Roiret Transport. The completed line is also managed by a consortium, headed by VINCI, which was awarded the concession to operate it for a fixed period of 30 years.
During 2009, much of the tramway’s infrastructure was built, delivery of the rolling stock also took place around this timeframe. The line is electrified; to provide this electrification along the new section of line, a pair of substations were built to power the newly installed overhead catenary wire. This is energised at 750V DC, suitable for operating the tram-trains at speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph). The line’s support infrastructure includes a dedicated operations centre, comprising offices and maintenance facilities, along with storage sidings for the rolling stock, a sand replenishment station and vehicle cleaning facilities. Both day-to-day operations of the tramway and all maintenance activities associated with it are responsibilities of the consortium.