France's minister of transport confirmed on Monday that the planned CDG Express between the country's busiest airport at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle and the heart of the capital will be built.
The rail project that would have linked Gare de l'Est in central Paris and Terminal 2 of the airport to the north of the city was under threat due to mounting opposition.
But Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday: “The concession contract will be signed in the coming days.”
“It's essential that works begin without losing more time. The CDG Express is vital for Paris and the whole of the Île-de-France region,” Borne added.
“The aim is to have the service ready for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games but it won't be to the detriment of local transport,” she said.
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Tourists and frequent travellers to and from Paris have long complained about the lack of a direct fast link between the airport and the centre of the city.
To get to Charles de Gaulle airport passengers can either take a taxi, a bus or get the unpredictable RER B train service from Gare du Nord station. Some of the RER B services are direct to the airport and take roughly 35 minutes, while other services stop at local stations along the way and can take 45 minutes. The service is often hit by delays and strikes.
The 32km trip on the planned CDG Express will take 20 minutes and cost €24, more than double the current cost of getting to the airport by RER train.
Valerie Pécresse, President of Ile-de-France’s Regional Council, had asked the French government to postpone the controversial high-speed project given “the urgent need to improve the RER and Transilien commuter lines” first.
RER B travellers number 900,000 daily compared to the projected 20,000 for the CDG Express. Their commute is twice as long as CDG Express’s and their travel is often marred by day-long service cancellations, delays and overcrowded carriages.
In a petition signed by nearly 7,000 people, RER B users called for the nearly €2 billion budget for the construction of the CDG Express to be allocated to improving their line, reportedly the second busiest in Europe .
Pécresse also raised the matter of whether the high-speed line could actually be built in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics as planned, and whether in doing so it would “degrade the quality of service on the RER B, H, K, E and P lines”.
“Even if the benefits of the CDG Express for the appeal of our region are real, the construction work involved in this project with its current schedule could permanently worsen the daily life of millions of French people,” she told journalists.
“The 900,000 daily RER B passengers must take priority.”
Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne vowed that €500 million of the €1.8 billion tabled for the CDG Express will be spent on improving the RER B, and she insisted that rail chiefs SNCF believe the high-speed service will be ready for the 2024 Olympics.