The delays were foreseen, they are now confirmed: the Society of Greater Paris formalized, Tuesday, July 13, the delays of several lines of the future automatic metro in Ile-de-France, and in particular sections that were to connect sites of the 2024 Olympic Games.
Launched at the end of the 2000s under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, the Grand Paris Express will connect, over more than 200 km, dozens of suburban municipalities, the research centers of the Saclay plateau and the two Parisian airports of Roissy, to the north, and Orly, to the south. The new schedule formalized on Tuesday now provides for gradual commissioning of the new lines between 2025 and 2030.
One section in particular is eagerly awaited: part of line 16 on an arc crossing the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, north-east of Paris. Four years ago, President Macron had promised it again to the sensitive neighborhoods of Clichy-Montfermeil for 2024, in time for the Olympics.
But the new president of the Société du Grand Paris, appointed in March by the current power, dissatisfied with the delays, could only admit the infeasibility of the calendar. Result: more than two years late. Scheduled opening “For the second half of 2026”, announced Jean-François Monteils.
The president of the departmental council of Seine-Saint-Denis, Stéphane Troussel (PS), regretted ” a bad new “ for the inhabitants of the department. “Other delays will not be acceptable for this project which must be a stimulus and a catch-up in terms of development and the environment”, he warned. “You have to see the glass half full, the project is not canceled, you will just have to be patient and wait until 2026”, qualified the mayor of Bourget, Jean-Baptiste Borsali (DVD).
Displaced Olympic venues
The start of line 17, which was to lead to Le Bourget airport, where a district must be built to accommodate the media from around the world, suffers the same fate: it will not be ready before the second half of 2025.
The organizers of the Olympics had anticipated these delays, as part of their budget review, and moved some sites to more accessible places. For example, the swimming events were moved from Saint-Denis to Nanterre, well connected by public transport.
The main problem will be the media village planned at Le Bourget. There will be routings of “Bus” planned for journalists but the organizing committee of the Olympic Games is now planning to relieve the press center on additional centers.
Finally, only the extension of line 14 (which was the first automated line of the Paris metro and now crosses the capital) should be completed in time for the Olympics. Its new extensions will link the Olympic village, Pleyel, to Orly airport. The one that the President of the Region, Valérie Pécresse, praises as “One of the most modern lines in the world” had already been extended to Saint-Ouen in December 2020.
Epilogue in 2030
SGP officials had warned that the deadlines would be difficult to meet, and the Covid-19 epidemic is only one explanation for the delays among others. “It would be – in quotes – simple if there were only the pandemic crisis, but honesty obliges to say that there is not only the pandemic crisis”, says Jean-François Monteils.
Among the difficulties encountered, he cited the removal of asbestos from the Aulnay-sous-Bois depot site, the difficulty of bringing in technicians from Germany to come to the bedside of the tunnel boring machines during containment and the consequences of the accidental death of a worker at Christmas, which forced a tunnel boring machine to stop for six months, the time of the investigation.
But all is not dark: line 18, to the south and southwest, will be delivered on time. By 2027, it will link Orly to the large research center on the Saclay plateau, which includes several major research institutions, the University of Paris-Saclay, the Ecole Polytechnique, HEC, the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique, etc.
“Now that the OJ subject has fallen, the most urgent line is line 18, because it is vital for French research”, says Nicolas Samsoen (UDI), mayor of Massy. “Everyone has already arrived on the set, at the start of the next school year new students are arriving, it is several tens of thousands of students, several thousand researchers, employees …”, adds Grégoire de Lasteyrie (LR), mayor of Palaiseau and president of the Paris-Saclay agglomeration community.
Ultimately, the map will not move and the 200 kilometers remain confirmed for 2030. “We started it all and we will finish everything”, assures Mr. Monteils.