French govt commits to build all Grand Paris Express network

The French government has committed to build the whole of the planned Grand Paris Express transport network, the key component of the regional renewal project launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, despite a sharp increase in the expected cost. After months of speculation that the new socialist-led government might cut the scale of the project or abandon it altogether, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced a go-ahead for the entire network.

Plans are for a 175km driverless metro system linking key suburbs and airports, requiring 57 new stations. In a report delivered in December, Pascal Auzannet, a former executive of the Paris RATP transport authority, calculated the scheme would cost €29.9bn, far above the originally budgeted €20.5bn. In a speech at Marne-la-Vallée university in the east of the Paris region, Ayrault said he expects to reduce the revised bill by around €3bn by having smaller trains on some lines. Ayrault said the project “shows unprecedented ambition” but will be financed. He said all of France will benefit from the resulting new dynamism of the Paris region. “It needs this investment which will directly and indirectly benefit the whole of the country,” he said.

Cost overruns will partly be met by slowing the pace of construction. The network will now be finished by 2030 rather than 2025, though three-quarters will be operational by 2025. Work will begin on some lines in 2015, starting with the southern line from Pont-de-Sèvres to Noisy-Champs, expected to contribute strongly to relieving pressure on the current Paris metro system. This section should be completed by 2020 and work on the northeastern line, linking Noisy and Le Bourget airport and the Massy-Saclay line in the south, should also be well advanced by then. In the Grand Paris plan Saclay is a major centre for research.

Ayrault also said that Grand Paris Express and other transport infrastructure improvements will be brought together in a single project, New Grand Paris. An additional €2bn will be provided to upgrade the existing network, taking total budget for these to €6bn by 2017, double the spend of the past five years – and paid for by an annual tax on office and commercial premises. A further €2.5bn will need to be found by 2020, but Ayrault noted: “This is not much out of the more than €30bn that we are going to commit to the New Grand Paris project.” The government is looking at mobilising additional resources by increasing parking fines, and the extra growth resulting from the project will also generate additional revenues. He also reiterated his readiness to provide €1bn for the Société du Grand Paris, the body set up to build the new transport infrastructure, from 2015 if needed.

Ayrault also announced the creation of a new administrative structure, encompassing a new metropolitan authority including the city of Paris and its neighbouring departments. The new body will be launched in 2016 and will have responsibility for housing and development in this area, slightly smaller than that covered by the Ile-de-France regional authority. Former urban affairs minister Maurice Leroy, who agreed the original plan for Grand Paris Express with the regional authority in 2011, welcomed the decision to go ahead with the entire network. “I urge the government to do everything necessary to ensure that not another minute is wasted in the building of Grand Paris Express, particularly in terms of budgetary measures,” he said. pie

Grand Paris Express

Source : pie-mag

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