This May 2016 marks the start of works on the Grand Paris Express, the 200km automatic metro designed to transform mobility around the city come 2030.
“It’s the construction project of the century,” says Philippe Yvin, president, Société du Grand Paris. And judging from the figures, this €24.7 billion (£19.5bn) enterprise is certainly big in scale and bold in ambition:
- 4 new lines – 15, 16, 17 & 18
- Extension of existing automatic metro Line 14
- 68 stations involving 30 teams of architects
- 85% underground
- Cost of rolling stock: €2 billion (£1.6bn)
- 2 million daily passengers anticipated
- Frequency up to 1 train every 90 seconds
- 100% connected network
- 2,000 people currently employed
Highs & lows
Of course such a a massive undertaking isn’t without its challenges. Since Paris is bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics, the pressure is on to deliver Lines 17 and 18 in time, given that they serve the three airports (Roissy-Charles de Gaulle; Le Bourget, and Orly) located north and south of the city.
To gain ground, the civil engineering works and installation of systems will be performed in parallel as much as possible – “a first for a new-build metro project” ?
Another question concerns the fragile nature of the Paris subsoil, which has been largely quarried and mined, plus has a high gypsum (deleterious mineral) content in the north and north east.
“Yes the subsurface is tricky, especially since over 80% of the network will be tunnelled,” admits Mr Yvin. “But with today’s technology things can be resolved.”
There is human resistance too.
The 35km Line 18 (Orly airport-Versailles Chantier) will run overground for 14km along a viaduc. At the public inquiries, local residents have expressed concerns over the negative visual impact of this 7-metre tall, 10-metre wide structure in their midst, as well as noise and exposure to electromagnetic radiation from the metro system itself.
Spoil not the environment
It’s good to hear that the spoil from construction will be removed by rail and the waterways as much as possible, so as to limit road congestion with trucks and the associated air and noise pollution.
Also this transport chain should operate as ‘virtuously’ as possible, with the trains and barges either removing waste or delivering materials to avoid running ’empty’.
On the cards
A lot is riding on the success of Grand Paris Express. By making it easier to travel between the suburbs, the network is expected to deliver a number of related economic and social gains.
“Grand Paris Express will transform the organisation of Paris metropole.”
New and efficient transport links are likely to alter the image and appeal of the Paris region for the better, as well as the quality of life for its 12 million inhabitants (Franciliens), who “will gain a lot of time in their suburb-to-suburb journeys,” promises Mr Yvin. “The city airport links will also benefit, as will businesses and tourism,” he adds.
“Studies show that one impact will be denser spatial growth centred around the stations, which in turn will boost productivity for companies,” explains Jean-Claude Prager, director of economic affairs, Société du Grand Paris Express. “Densification also implies less CO2 emissions,” he adds.
Over the long term, Grand Paris Express is expected to generate (at the very least) an extra €60 billion (£47.5bn) to the annual €600+ billion (£475bn) GNP of Ile-de-France (Paris and its region).
On the employment front, the metro should broaden the horizons of job seekers by enabling them to travel more easily around the Paris region, applying for jobs they might otherwise have dismissed. “The success of a ‘sensitive urban zone’ depends on access to transport,” insists Mr Prager.
Marking the moment
With all the public consultations due to close this June, on the 4th a public day will be held in the south of Paris to celebrate the inauguration of the civil engineering.
Baptised ‘KM1’ (Kilometre 1), the event will also highlight the arts and culture programme to run in parallel, bringing together architects, artists and other participants to raise awareness of this milestone transport venture and encourage a sense of ownership among Franciliens.