Valérie Pécresse, president of the greater Paris transport network Ile-de-France Mobilités has declared that the current deadline of 2024 – which would see the work finished in time for the Paris Olympics – is “radically untenable”.
The French government will this week decide on whether to keep pushing for the 2024 deadline – which will involve major disruption to the transport networks during the summers of 2022 and 2023 – or extend the deadline until 2026.
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To get to Charles de Gaulle airport passengers can currently either take a taxi, a bus or get the 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.
The project has been controversial because it is essentially replacing a service that already exists, albeit in a slower form, and critics have said that the money could be better spent improving services for the whole of the Paris area.
However the government insists that a better airport link will in fact benefit the whole of the Ile-de-France area.
This week ministers will be asked to vote on two possible options.
Option one is to press ahead with the 2024 deadline and open the link in time for the Olympics.
However, this will necessitate much more disruption on the network.
For a period of three weeks over the summer 2022 and another three weeks in 2023, the current RER line B service would have to close completely.
This would mean everyone who currently uses it to get to and from the airport, plus commuters to and from northern Paris suburbs like Drancy and Aubervillers, would instead be on buses.
It is estimated this would add 200,000 to 300,000 people to the bus network and would require buses leaving Gare du Nord every two minutes.
Ile-de-France Mobilités has admitted that this would “worsen the already problematic punctuality of RER B”.
The second option is to build parallel tracks to the current rail lines, which has the advantage of limiting disruption to passengers, but means the project would not be finished until 2026.
Valérie Pécresse said: “The government must now make a decision.
“While I share the desire to carry out this CDG Express project, which is important for the attractiveness of the Île-de-France region, its completion without a two-year delay in the timetable would be in total contradiction with the government's commitment to the priority given to daily transport.
“This would be a losing decision – losing with the assurance of meeting the deadline for the Olympic Games given the extremely tight schedule and the unacceptable deterioration in the transport conditions of Ile-de-France residents during these years of work.”