It takes billions of euros, but Paris is moulding the transport network of the future
Mobility is a daily concern for David Pena, who lives in a small riverside town about 30 km west of Paris. “It’s not uncommon for me to get to the station and experience delays or see that the train has been cancelled,” says the 42-year-old helicopter engineer.
The Paris Métro often ranks among the top subways in the world and a recent global survey placed the city in the top 10 for urban mobility. Its region, however, has big challenges. “Paris has a very old system, similar to London,” says Caroline Lemoine, an EIB transport engineer. “Upgrading the network and keeping up the expansion to improve the level of service and increase accessibility requires huge investment, and that is what we, at the EIB, are contributing to.”
The Grand Paris project “is going to ensure we have one of the best transport networks in the world.”
The region in and around the city, known as the Ile de France, has a population of about 12 million, a number that has tripled over the last century. More than eight million trips are made daily on the Paris region’s transport network. The surge in population has contributed to skyrocketing property prices, forcing many residents to relocate 40 km outside the city to areas with fewer transport connections. “We are coping with problems from more than a century ago and finding solutions today,” says Laurence Debrincat, a Paris mobility specialist with Ile-de-France Mobilités, which runs the region’s transport network.
Planning for the future
The EU bank has been helping Paris invest in transport for decades. Big recent deals include:
• EUR 800 million in loans from the EIB to bring back trams • EUR 200 million to support Autolib’ electric cars • a total of EUR 2.5 billion to finance part of the ambitious project known as the Grand Paris Express, a Métro expansion plan that is one of the biggest in the world.
The Grand Paris Express will double the size of the Métro, adding 200 kilometres of track and more than 70 stations. The project aims to:
• stitch together isolated suburbs • reduce daily traffic jams that contribute to smog • link business districts, airports, and universities • connect the otherwise isolated suburbs to Paris.
“The Grand Paris project is going to take a long time, but it is going to ensure we have one of the best transport networks in the world,” Debrincat says.
The RER commuter trains that serve the suburbs are also being upgraded, with new cars and signalling. The RER A line, at more than 100 kilometres long, is the busiest in Europe, carrying 1.2 million passengers a day. This line, which slices through the centre of Paris on its way to the western and eastern suburbs, is being renovated from 2015 to 2020. The project will replace 24 kilometres of rails.
“There is a really big need to maintain the suburban railway network,” Debrincat says. “It costs billions of euros to change the rail lines and electric signalling, but it is something we have had to do for many years.”
Paris is also home to one of the most successful bike-sharing projects in the world. It has about 14,500 bicycles at 1,230 stations. The city has been increasing its bicycle lanes since the late 1990s, and now has about 700 kilometres of bicycle routes.
It’s expanding its electric bus lines, with the goal that 80% of buses will be electric by 2025 and the rest will use biogas. Paris already has one all-electric line served by 23 buses.
Let’s not forget the Autolib’ electric car sharing service, which began in 2011 and offers nearly 4,000 electric cars in the Paris area, with more than 100,000 registered users. The EU bank financed the research and development of Autolib’ car batteries and the deployment of the service.
Pena, who lives in the western suburbs, says he is optimistic about the future of mobility in Paris – and his commute. There are plans to bring the RER commuter train to his small town. “France is definitely in front in terms of taking advantage of new technology,” he says, “but it still needs to improve.”