Grand Paris Express, the mass transit system for the Olympics

A fundamental infrastructure for Games to demonstrate that the French capital is investing in a sustainable and human-sized future.

In a pure olympic spirit, Paris 2024 will also be an occasion for the French capital to push ahead with its ambitious urban renewal plans begun several years ago.

The next olympics in fact aim to involve not just the center of the metropolis but its suburbs and outskirts as well, where the new Olympic Village, the beating heart of the next games, is being built. The Olympic village itself will be connected to the rest of the city thanks to a new modern and sustainable infrastructure: the Grand Paris Express, an urban rail network that will loop around the city joining many suburbs with more than 60 stops. The project for this incredible subway was born before Paris was awarded the olympics, and has been redesigned in part to become one of the tools they city will use to present its games in a sustainable way.

The long road of the Grand Paris Express

Already at the beginning of the century, the city of Paris began studying the creation of a new transport infrastructure to cut traffic congestion in Ile-de-France, the large region that lives and breathes around Paris. Between 2004 and 2007, several different projects were proposed, some of them including the idea that was later chosen: to build a rail network that circled around Paris joining all of its suburbs, where millions of people live. The Grand Paris Express is the fruit of this effort, supported by the President of the French Republic and imagined as a loop capable of linking the most important economic areas of the region with the main transport hubs, starting with the airports.

Thus Paris’ bid for the 2024 Olympic Games was built around this incredible infrastructure with a double purpose: to revitalize the capital that the entire world knows along the banks of the Seine river, and upgrading Greater Paris, that constellation of cities surrounding the capital, whose citizens move every day in their millions.

The city’s bid for next year’s games highlighted the Grand Paris Express as proof that Paris was investing in a sustainable future with the creation of a metropolis built for humans. The urban regeneration of Saint-Denis, one of the main urban centers affected by the new rail network, was at the heart of the project that powered both the Grand Paris Express and the city’s plans for the games.

The sober games of Paris

Sustainability is an essential word, not just for the construction of new infrastructures but also for the planning of large international events. Following the example of London’s 2012 olympics, the global event that was used to renovate important areas of the city, the French government has also wanted to give its games the mantle of sustainability and sobriety. One one hand costs are kept down and should be, according to the latest estimates, around 4 billion euros. On the other hand, the chance to upgrade some parts of the city that until recently lacked the most efficient and modern services.  The Grand Paris Express fits exactly this bill, because it connects the nearby cities and thus removes millions of cars from the roads cutting down emissions and commuting times.

The subway network of Greater Paris

Joining the cities of Ile-de-France with a new network of rapid transit lines represents one of the largest engineering feats of the last few years. The Grand Paris Express will be 200 kilometers long, formed by five new lines, the 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. A total of 68 new stations will be built. The Webuild group is participating with the construction of line 14, the one that reaches the Orly airport, and line 16, which will serve a number of suburban towns North and East of Paris. It is a collaborative effort that led to the opening of many work sites around Paris with the shared objective, between citizens and institutions. The infrastructure will help achieve the goals the French government has set itself, namely to cut Co2 emissions by 27.6 million tons by the year 2050, in addition to adding 100 billion euros to France’s GDP and 115,000 jobs.

That is the inheritance the Grand Paris Express will leave its country, an inheritance that will bear fruit already next year when millions of people will travel to the Ville Lumiere to admire the athletes competing in the Olympic game.