Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport is ranked second in the world in terms of international passengers. However, its transportation services lag behind international standards and are poorly regarded by air travellers, particularly business people and tourists from outside France.
Over 80% of journeys between Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport are currently made by road. Daily traffic jams on the A1 and A3 motorways mean that the journey time between the centre of Paris and the airport can vary from half an hour to over two hours, causing great stress to passengers rushing to catch a flight.
Furthermore, the RER B line that currently serves the airport is heavily used by commuters, which causes problems for air travellers as well as the commuters themselves. Commuters stumble over travellers’ bulky suitcases, while air travellers suffer from a lack of clear information and signage, limited luggage space and cramped conditions during rush hour.
Most major cities in Europe and around the world, such as London, Oslo, Stockholm, Hong Kong and even Tokyo, operate a dedicated express rail link between their town centres and their main airports. The CDG Express project is a response to the need for such a system. The objective is to offer a high-quality service to air travellers by creating a new, rapid, reliable, non-stop rail link and, at the same time, help improve the daily travelling conditions of commuters on the RER B line.
Improving rail services to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport is a key factor in maintaining the economic and commercial competitiveness of Paris and the surrounding region, as well as the capital’s international image. Furthermore, express rail links could contribute towards sustainable development by allowing road users to opt for rail travel, a more environmentally friendly mode of transport.
THE CDG EXPRESS PLANNING PROCESS
The new CDG Express route, named Virgule, was defined during a public debate held in 2003. The link will be 32km long and use existing infrastructure where possible, including the modernised tracks of the RER B. CDG Express trains will depart from dedicated platforms at the Gare de l’Est station and arrive at Aéroport CDG 2 (CDG2) at Charles de Gaulle.
The civil engineering works will be in two areas. An underground section 700m long – 220m of which will be a cut-and-cover section – will be created at the Porte de la Chapelle in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Upstream of CDG2, 8km of new tracks will be built following the route of the existing tracks of the high-speed connection line, with a cut-and-cover section below the airport’s fourth runway.
The estimated investment in the project is €640m, (€120m of which will be for rolling stock).
After studying the project for several years, the French government committee in charge of economic development and planning confirmed that the CDG Express link will be operated as a concession.
AN EFFICIENT SERVICE ON THE RER B NORD LINE
The CDG Express link between the Gare de l’Est and Charles de Gaulle will be a direct, non-stop service. The transit time will be 20 minutes, with trains running at 15-minute intervals. The easily accessible new service will be provided over an extended timetable all year round. Departures will be at set hours and on time. A CDG Express train will constantly await passengers at dedicated platforms in stations. Additional services, such as flight check-ins and real-time information on arrivals and departures may also be offered to passengers.
Modernising the RER B is the first step towards commissioning the CDG Express. The public debate held in 2003 showed that users of the RER B Nord line had high expectations in terms of wanting a rapid improvement in conditions on the route. The RER B Nord+ modernisation project to improve the RER B line in the north of Paris will be managed by Réseau Ferré de France. The objective is to offer users a better and more frequent service.
The plan is for the RER B Nord+ project to make its existing tracks available for CDG Express trains. The CDG Express link will therefore be commissioned after the completion of the modernisation of the RER B line.
The French state is contributing to the funding of the RER B Nord+ project. In 2006 it provided €10m, and it will continue to provide financial support for this project under the future Ile de France Contrat de Projets between the state and regional government.
SELF-FUNDING THE CDG EXPRESS
The CDG Express project will be built and run as a public-private partnership, more specifically a concession. A concessionaire will therefore be responsible for financing, designing, constructing and operating the infrastructure, and for supplying and maintaining rolling stock. It will also be responsible for organising and operating the entire service provided to passengers on the link.
The principle behind the ‘full concession’ will require the construction and operation of the CDG Express to be funded solely through fares paid by users of the express link, without any contribution from local or national taxpayers.