Meeting a satisfied client makes his day. Vincent Blandin works as a Business Sales and Technical Controller for Volvo CE – and has been with the company for 14 years.
Paris New Revolution
Hundreds of kilometers of new subway lines are being built in Paris. They are part of The Grand Paris Express - at the moment the largest construction project for public transportation in Europe. With it come new homes, work opportunities and a serious ambition to really give new life to the suburbs of Paris. ”We are defining a new kind of metropolis,” says Isabelle Rivière, Territory Relations Manager, Société du Grand Paris, the public agency that is in charge of realizing the project.
For a long time now, the public transportation system in Paris has suffered from growing pains. Imagine a belt, tightly drawn around the city, squeezing harder and harder. The existing subway lines, both subterranean and above ground, are overpopulated during rush hours. The roads surrounding the city, in particular the so called Périphérique, are dividing the greater Paris area with the inner city. The result? Constantly jammed roads and time consuming commuting for the citizens of one of Europe’s biggest cities.
The solution can, and most probably will, be The Grand Paris Express. In about one decade’s time, it will ease the pain, and loose the belt. 200 kilometers of subway lines are right now being built. A number of big construction companies are involved, including Volvo CE. It is a huge and ambitious project, and Europe has never seen anything like it. Isabelle Rivière explains the challenges that needed to be met when it all started, in 2008.
”People lived, and live, in the east and go to work in the west. So we had to modernize our public transport network. Currently we have a star-shaped network with Paris at the center whereas most travels are actually from one suburb to another. The idea of a circular subway line came up, joining the tips of the star in order to create connections so that people don't have to go through Paris to go from one suburb to another.”
Apart from the pure transportation issue in the city, the project also aims to connect the smaller cities around the center with each other. A vivid example of this connection, is the construction of one the Grand Paris Express hubs in the small city of Clamart, just south of Paris. Here, the work started some years ago and the construction site is huge.
”With this station, the small cities Clamart, Vanves, Malakoff and Issy-Les-Moulineau will be connected in a way that we haven’t seen before. When it is finished, it will save loads of time for the commuters”, says Gualtiero Zamuner, project manager for the site on behalf of Société du Grand Paris.
He shows around on the site, where the beginning of a gigantic tunnel takes up most part. Descending, it is hard to imagine what it will look like in just a few years. Here, travellers and commuters will mingle and board subway trains, taking them in different directions.
”The Bouygues construction company is currently doing work around us to build the second flooring of the future station. Then, we'll dig further to get to the next level below, and then further again, to create a station for the subway,” he says and sweeps with his arm around the area.
Besides the actual station, the citizens of Clamart can look forward to other effects in the future.
”An urbanistic project is taking place right now, conducted by the Clamart mayor. 300 apartments, a day nursery and schools will be built. A good example of that The Grand Paris Express is not only about transportation,” says Gualtiero Zamuner.
The Clamart example is also putting the finger on an existing challenge for the French capital. As the city borders haven’t been moved since 1861, and the core of Paris remains the same, the suburbs are really divided from the old Paris, with all that comes with it. Paris is for example one of the most segregated cities in Europe. The Grand Paris Express aims to find solutions and give life to the whole region.
”It is all much bigger than hundreds of kilometers of subterranean lines. The ripples on the water are new companies, housing units and jobs. A new Grand Paris is taking shape and transportation will be its frame,” says Isabelle Rivière.
Being a large project, Grand Paris Express is also observed by other major cities, and Isabelle Rivière reveals that a delegation from Moscow paid a visit to Société du Grand Paris a few years back for advice. And it is not only the pure construction they want to know more about. In a world where we need to think more and more about how to travel together, efficiently and with minimum effect on the environment, a project like The Grand Paris Express means so much more.
”This is truly a revolution. We are defining a new kind of metropolis. With efficient public transport, we can also imagine that in the future, people will use their cars less or in a different way and use public transport,” concludes Isabelle Rivière.