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.