‘Scandalous’: Paris rail commuters told to expect eight more years of misery

Paris commuters, who already suffer from an increasing number of delays on trains as they try to get to work, can expect things to get even worse over the next eight years, rail authorities said.

'Scandalous': Paris rail commuters told to expect eight more years of misery

The stark warning came from the state-rail company SNCF’s chief for the Paris region, who said that certain train lines would have to shut completely for several days on end as maintenance work is carried out.

The disruption will be made worse by work on the Grand Paris Express, a new network of suburban rapid transit lines to be built in the greater Paris region which is the French capital’s largest infrastructure project in decades, said Alain Krakovitch, head of the Transilien regional network.

“That means that the next eight years are going to be difficult for our customers, but we will try to make sure that disruptions are kept to a minimum,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.

“We are going into a difficult period because we have a huge amount of work under way, while at the same time having to handle three million passengers a day on the RER and Transilien lines,” said Didier Bense, the director of SNCF Réseau Ile-de-France.

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He said that “intense” work had been carried out to improve the network over the past two years at night or at weekends, when disruption for passengers could be kept to a minimum.

“But that has not been enough. We are going to have to shut down certain lines, sometimes for several days,” said Bense, noting that passenger numbers were projected to increase to up to 4.5 million by 2015.

Pressure to get most of the upgrades done in time for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 meant that spreading out the work over a longer period, in order to reduce disruption to passengers, was not an option, he said.

The rail officials said the network would do all it could to keep passengers informed of what lines were being affected at any given time and would provide alternative transport, such as buses.

Rail users' lobby group SOS Usagers described as “scandalous” the admission by the SNCF that the Paris network was going to suffer massive disruption for nearly a decade.
It said that a major part of the problem is the focus on the new Grand Paris Express network, which involves building 200 kilometres of new metro lines, which is almost twice the length of London’s future Crossrail railway line.
SOS Usagers spokesman Jean-Claude Delarue told The Local that the emphasis should be put on improving existing rail structures in the Paris region instead of spending a fortune on new lines.
He noted that the Cour des Comptes, the state auditor, had this month warned that the Grand Paris Express was costing far more than initially planned and might not be ready in time for the 2024 Olympics as scheduled.
It said it could cost 38.5 billion euros, more than 12 billion euros higher than a previous estimate in 2013.
SOS Usagers also said the SNCF's promise to keep passengers well informed about disruption to commuter services was unlikely to be honoured.

“They've been saying for ten years that they will improve the information they provide (about delays and disruption) , and it has only got worse and worse,” said Mr Delarue.