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Macron wants new suburban train network in France’s main cities

Sometimes counting over 1.3 million passengers per day, Paris' suburban transport system - the RER - helps people get in and out of the city without having to rely on a car. According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be duplicated in other French cities too.

Macron wants new suburban train network in France's main cities
RER trains on tracks in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, a south-eastern Paris suburb. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Those commuting in and out of Paris, as well as tourists looking to enjoy a day at Disneyland, are familiar with the region’s extensive suburban train network (RER). According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be replicated in other French cities in the coming years.

In the latest in a series of short-videos answering constituents’ “ecological” questions, the President responded to the question “What are you doing to develop rail transport in France, and offer a real alternative to [travelling by] car?” by offering plans to duplicate Paris’ RER system elsewhere.

You can watch the full video here;

Macron said that building suburban train networks in other cities would be “a great goal for ecology, the economy, and quality of life.”

While he did not name any locations in particular, the president did say that the plans would concern “the ten main French cities.”

While reminiscing about his grandfather, a former railway worker, Macron added that the project would help to decarbonise transport and ease congestion in city centres.

The RER (Réseau Express Régional) system in Paris is a network of trains running across the region, connecting the suburbs to the city. The network has been expanding since the 1960s. While it now covers a large area, the network is notably less reliable than the city-centre Metro services, with users often complaining of delays and poor infrastructure.

According to Le Figaro, cities such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, and Aix-en-Provence have already expressed plans to develop similar suburban train networks.

Lyon, France’s third-largest city and second-largest metropolitan area, has already discussed plans for the Lyon RER, with hopes that it will be fully operational by 2035, at an estimated cost of between €1.4 and €7 billion.

As for when, the President did not give a timeline, but the Elysée told Le Figaro that the first step would be for “the orientation council for transport infrastructure” to identify which projects could be “launched first.”

The project will also be steered by France’s Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, the former Minister of Transport. When she was in this role, Borne had submitted plans to develop RER systems in different French cities.

The project to add suburban train networks across the country was met with support from the current Transport Minister, Clément Beaune, who welcomed the plans as a “major ecological and social transformation for the coming decade.”

However, not everyone is convinced. Some, like the Mayor of Cébazat in Puy-de-Dôme, have already questioned whether the Paris region concept, which would require heavy investment, could effectively be replicated smaller cities.

“It must be fully efficient,” the Mayor, who is also an expert in transportation, told Le Parisien.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Unscheduled stop: Baby born aboard high-speed train in France

Travellers on a high-speed rail service train in France experienced an unusual delay at a station at the weekend -- while a fellow passenger gave birth to a baby boy, local media reported.

Unscheduled stop: Baby born aboard high-speed train in France

The pregnant woman began to feel contractions shortly after taking her seat on the Paris-Strasbourg train, run by German rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

She alerted staff and the train was held at the Lorraine TGV station in the eastern French town of Louvigny to allow a medical team on board which then delivered the baby, the Republicain Lorrain said.

The other passengers were asked for patience during the birth of the baby boy, Felix, which took just over 80 minutes.

Felix was “a little premature”, the paper noted.

Mother and baby were taken to a nearby hospital by the local firefighter service, which reported later that both were doing well.

The Republicain Lorrain said that everybody was now wondering whether the German rail operator would send a birth gift, or grant its youngest passenger free trips on the network.

French public transport services have a history of providing such gifts. In 2018, after a baby was born on an RER Train in Paris, the child was offered a free Navigo pass until his 25th birthday.

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