Grand Paris Express: The French capital's ambitious expansion plan

The Local France
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Grand Paris Express: The French capital's ambitious expansion plan
Workers look at the arrival of the "Caroline" the tunnel boring machine for planned line 18 in the 'Grand Paris Express' (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

With four new Metro lines, 250,000 new homes and several business and creative hubs, the Grand Paris Express is an ambitious €24 billion project aimed at better connections between the French capital and its suburbs, while making the suburbs more attractive to live and work in.


Since 2010, France has been envisioning the 'Grand Paris Express' - a collection of new rapid transit lines, plus extensions to existing Metro services, intended to better connect people living in and visiting the 'Greater Paris' region.

Map of the greater Paris express. Credit: French Government, Société du Grand Paris

But the project is about more than just public transport - there are also plans for 250,000 new homes to help ease the capital's housing shortage and additional investment plans for four new 'hubs' of business, commerce or creativity and the arts.

According to the Vie Publique government site, the "aim of the Grand Paris Express is to improve accessibility to poorly served areas and increase the supply of housing in the Île-de-France region.

"The housing shortage in France is a major social issue. In Paris, the scarcity of supply has led to an unprecedented rise in property prices, preventing many households from finding a place to live."

Vie Publique estimates that once the construction has finished, 90 percent of people in the Greater Paris region will live within 2 km of a station.

"This will make it easier and quicker to get around, giving the people of Île-de-France better access to employment areas," the French government wrote.


The first phase of the project - transport - is already well underway. Two existing lines - Line 11 and Line 14 - are being extended out into the suburbs while four completely new Metro lines are under construction.

The idea is that by extending quick and reliable public transport into the outer suburbs, they will become a more realistic option for commuters which will in turn ease pressure on the capital itself, which is suffering from a severe housing shortage.

The Greater Region for transit consists of the city of Paris, as well as the 123 communes in its inner suburbs (those in Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne départements), and the seven communes in the outer suburbs; Athis-Mons, Juvisy-sur-Orge, Morangis, Paray-Vieille-Poste, Savigny-sur-Orge and Viry-Châtillon in Essonne and Argenteuil in Val-d'Oise.

Construction on the new lines began in 2015, with the eventual goal of offering 200 kilometres of new track.

The new lines will be numbered 15, 16, 17, and 18, and they will be fully automated. The trains will travel at a speed of 55km to 65km per hour, wrapping broadly around the edges of the 'greater Paris region', with the aim of helping people outside of the city centre be able to go from one suburb to the next without having to go into the centre of Paris.

The project also aims to build up areas around new and refurbished stations, with an emphasis on low-emissions and environmentally friendly construction projects. 

The 'Grand Paris Express' is scheduled to be completed by 2030.



The greater Paris project also includes building up the areas along the new Metro lines. With 68 new stations to be created, the goal is to build at least 250,000 new homes in the nearby areas, which will offer various price options, including lodging for students and public housing (HLM).

At present Paris is in the grip of a severe housing shortage which has sent prices spiralling so that the French capital is now one of the most expensive cities in the world to rent or buy property. Rent control measures are regularly flouted, as are regulations on decent housing as landlords take advantage of the desperation of their tenants to find somewhere to live.

The city is also cracking down on holiday rentals and Airbnb in an attempt to ease the housing crisis.

Business and creativity

The plan also seeks to make the region outside Paris more attractive for business and investment, investing in new major 'hubs for business and activity'.

These include; La Défense as the financial centre, Plaine Commune as the cultural and creative centre, Roissy-Charles De Gaulle as the international trade centre, Le Bourget as the aeronautics centre and the Saclay plateau as the new scientific and technological innovation centre. 

Environmental benefits

Finally, the objective is to keep the project green. By adding more Metro lines, the French government hopes that car journeys will decrease, thus helping to reduce pollution and traffic. 

The SGP estimates that the new metro will "reduce emissions by at least 14.2 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050". 


The new built-up areas will include plans for rainwater management and 'cooling areas' for residents' well-being during hot summer periods.

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

The then-head of the SGP, Philippe Yvin, estimated that the total costs for the project would rise to €24.7 billion, but that the project would eventually lead to €4 billion generated per year in GDP for the Paris region, Le Monde reported.

Schedule of works

Work has begun on many of the Metro lines, with the entire transit project set to be complete by 2030.

For more detail, you can simulate a future journey using the new lines on the SGP website.

This will allow you to see how you would get to your destination using the new services, as well as a comparison to how long that journey would currently take.

In the example below, the voyager is hoping to travel from Porte des Lilas to Sevran-Livry. The trip would normally take over an hour without the Grand Paris Express, but would take just 35 minutes by the new services.

A screenshot from the website

As for the line extensions, line 14 is set to be extended north, from Mairie de Saint-Ouen to Saint-Denis Pleyel, connecting it to the RER D.

To the south, more stations will be added to the line to connect it with the Orly Airport.


As for housing and business development, you can also use the simulator to visualise where new areas are scheduled to be built, as well as the amenities to be offered.

The calendar setting will allow users to estimate when construction projects are projected to be finished.

A screenshot from the website

When it comes to housing and neighbourhood development projects, as of 2023, the SGP reported that 180 'urban projects' were underway, and were expected to be functional by 2024 and 2025.

As of October 2023, 100 km of new tunnels for the Grand Paris Express had been dug. After fear of delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a member of the SGP management board, Bernard Cathelain, told Le Parisien in October that "for the time being, there are no more expected delays."


The first section to be completed will be the southern end of line 15, which will go between Noisy-Champs and Pont-de-Sèvres at Boulogne-Billancourt.

In November 2023, the first train will be tested out on the new line, Le Parisien reported. While this marks a large milestone, the southern section line will not go into service for a long time. "There's still a lot of work to be done, it's a line with complex stations, very deep structures and an innovative system for high-speed performance", Cathelain told the French daily.

The line is expected to come into service sometime in 2025.

The western side of line 15 is expected to be the most complex aspect of the entire project. French media have reported that this is due to the line being connected with La Défénse, the densely populated business district to the west of Paris. According to SGP projections, this part is projected to be completed by 2030.

According to Le Parisien, the extension of line 14 is set to be the first part of the plan put into action. In June 2024 - just before the start of the Olympic and Paralympic Games - the new end station on the northern side will become Saint-Denis Pleyel. The southern extension between the city of Paris and Orly airport is also expected to be finished in 2024.

As for Line 16, digging is expected to be completed before the end of 2023. After that, railway companies will aid in installing rails, wires and other equipment. The line is planned to open in sections, with services between Saint-Denis-Pleyel and Clichy-Montfermeil, scheduled for the end of 2026, and the remaining section connecting Noisy-Champs for the end of 2028.

Line 17, which will run from Saint-Denis – Pleyel past the CDG airport to Le Mesnil-Amelot, will also include an overhead section, requiring a viaduct - construction for which will begin in 2024. 

There will also be several sections of tunnel to be required. As of 2023, it was estimated that the segment from Saint-Denis-Pleyel to Bourget Airport would open in 2026, and then by 2028 it would extend to the Parc-des-Expositions. In 2030, the last bit is scheduled to go into effect for Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport and Le Mesnil-Amelot.

Finally, line 18 will connect the Orly airport to Versailles. It was expected to complete its tunnel boring toward Massy in October 2023. The line will also require the construction of a viaduct (7km-long). Services between Massy and Saint-Aubin were projected for 2026, eventually connecting to the Orly airport in 2028, and finally to Versailles in 2030.

What about the other existing line extensions?

In addition to the Grand Express, regional transport authorities have also embarked upon several other projects, including the automisation of Metro line 4, and various other line extensions.

In May 2022, line 14 completed its opened two new stations in the north, in the direction of Aubervilliers; Aimé-Césaire and Mairie d'Aubervilliers.

As for line 11, RATP estimated that the extension toward the east of Paris would be completed by spring 2024, prior to the Olympic Games. 

The commuter rail, the RER E, added 8km of tunnel between Magenta and Nanterre, with this segment expected to become operational in April 2024. 


By 2026, the RER E extension is expected to reach Mantes-la-Jolie.

Finally, the CDG airport express train is projected to be operational by early 2027, offering a direct link from the city to the airport. 


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Seb 2023/10/16 16:59
<<Construction on the new lines began in 2015, with the eventual goal of offering 200 kilometres of new track>> The french capacity for time travel is always impressive

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