‘Limited’ renovation of Gare du Nord station to go ahead before Paris Olympics

After a major renovation project for Paris' run down Gare du Nord station was scrapped amid huge cost overruns, French rail operator SNCF says it will go ahead with a more limited renovation, to be ready in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024.

'Limited' renovation of Gare du Nord station to go ahead before Paris Olympics
Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Travellers have for years complained that Gare du Nord is dirty, crumbling, chaotic and confusing to navigate and with France set to host two major sporting events – the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the Olympics in 2024 – a plan was made to renovate it.

The busiest train station in Europe, Gare du Nord is also the first thing that many tourists see in Paris, since it is the arrival point for international train services including the Eurostar and also a connection point to Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports.

SNCF’s original plan was an ambitious project that would have seen the station triple in size and add a huge shopping mall and entertainment complex.

It was opposed by locals and architects alike, but was finally cancelled for budget reasons – contractor Ceetrus having informed SNCF that the budget had tripled from the original €500 million, and also that the work would not be completed in time for the Olympics.

Now SNCF says it will carry out a “quick adaptation” of the station “carried out in close consultation with everyone concerned.”

Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told BFMTV: “We have asked SNCF to study a much smaller project of around €50 million, to make improvements and meet the challenges of 2023 and 2024.” 

Emmanel Gregoire, deputy to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, said in a statement: “We are ready and willing to commit on a new renovation for Gare du Nord that serves users and fits with the urban landscape.”

The ornate 19th century facility already sees 700,000 people pass through every day.

SNCF, which announced the cancellation of the original project late on Tuesday, blamed the contractor Ceetrus – a subsidiary of the Auchan supermarket chain – of “serious failure” over the project.

Ceetrus rejected the decision to drop the larger project, accusing SNCF of a lack of loyalty.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do with €50 million, apart from changing the windows and putting on a new coat of paint,” Antoine Grolin, chairman of the Ceetrus board of directors, told AFP.

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IN PICTURES: Storms and flash flooding hit Paris

Much of France is on weather alert for storms after last week's heatwave broke and on Tuesday afternoon torrential rain hit Paris, caused flash flooding that has closed some Metro stations.

IN PICTURES: Storms and flash flooding hit Paris

After a week of scorching temperatures France’s heatwave has now broken and Météo France has issued storm warnings for much of the country.

The first affected areas are predicted to be in the south of France, where some areas could see up to 40mm of rain in an hour and winds of up to 100km/h.

READ ALSO Storms and high winds: What can we expect from the weather in France this week?

Paris is only under a yellow alert, but when the rain hit late on Tuesday afternoon it was extremely heavy, leading to flash flooding in some streets and Metro stations.

At least 26mm of rain fell in a single hour, according to the weather station at Parc Montsouris, while estimates for the entire duration of the storm are 44mm.

Meanwhile the weather station on the Eiffel Tower registered gusts of wind of 104km/h.

At least eight Metro stations were temporarily closed because of the flooding in the stations, although there do not appear to be any stoppages on any Metro lines, the airport link OrlyVal was briefly halted.

Météo France does not expect major flooding in the Paris region.

Unfortunately the storms are unlikely to alleviate France’s drought – the worst in 60 years – since water from sudden downpours tends to run off parched land, rather than soaking in.