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Paris falls out of top five in global city rankings

Paris’s nasty traffic and hellish apartment hunting have meant it has been cast out of the top five of the world’s powerhouse cities, according to this year’s edition of a much vaunted annual index.

Paris falls out of top five in global city rankings
Paris dropped from the top five in a new index of world class cities. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Paris dropped two places to sixth in the 30 world-class cities ranked on the respected PricewaterhouseCoopers “Cities of Opportunity” index, which saw London take the number one spot.

Paris’s libraries, highly educated populace and respected universities brought it top honors for innovation and intellectual prowess. It was also deemed to have one of the world's best public transport systems and indeed the best when it comes to the coverage of the network.

Paris also came in the top five in categories such as Sustainability and the Natural Environment – putting it far ahead of London, as well as Economic Clout.

New York, Singapore, Toronto and San Francisco rounded out the top five. Stockholm, in at number seven, and Berlin at 11 were the closest European competitors to Paris. 

But the City of Light also has a few issues that were the cause of its fall from the top five — most notably when it comes to cost. The French capital was ranked 23rd out of 30 when it came to the cost of living in the city.

One of its weakest points was housing. Anyone who has ever battled to win the honor of paying a whopping a rent to live in one of the capital’s pokey apartments, can attest to the challenges there. Paris came in 14th on the list.

Paris captured the same unimpressive ranking for traffic. Whether it’s accidents on the Paris’s ring road the ‘périphérique’ or creeping along behind bottlenecks on the capital’s narrow streets, driving here is no picnic.

“The greater Paris area, which aims to reinforce and optimize transportation between suburbs and the city, could certainly take it up a notch on the problem of traffic jams,” Bernard Gainnier, president of PwC’s operations in France and francophone Africa.

It doesn’t sound like there is much relief coming for frustrated drivers, but Paris Town Hall says help is on the way for housing.

“We are well aware of the problem,” Deputy Mayor for Housing Ian Brossat told French daily Le Parisien. “That’s why we adopted a battle plan yesterday during the meeting of the Council of Paris, that calls for the creation of 10,000 new housing units each year for the next six years.”

While London managed to bounce up to the top spot from third place year due to scoring highly in categories like technological readiness and economic clout, the overall quality of the two eternal rival cities isn’t that different.

“The gap is not huge,” Gainnier, the PwC executive, told Le Parisien. “Like London, Paris got a balanced score. Ultimately what made the difference was the growth rate of the country.”

With a record unemployment in France and a moribund economy, France is already well aware of the problem.

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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