The hard hat goes on. So does the hi-vis jacket. And then we’re off. Through the gates, across the building site and down, down, down: straight into the underbelly of Paris. The metallic steps are narrow, winding and even further down we go, eventually opening into a small space that’s my first glimpse of the new extension of Paris Metro Line 14…
Though not quite as glamorous as ascending the Arc de Triomphe or admiring the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower, there is perhaps no transportation quite as integral to the fabric of the French capital as that of the metro. First opened to the public in 1900 during the world’s fair, there are now 16 lines; numbered 1-14, with 3bis and 7bis being extensions of their corresponding numbers.
A few days ago, I was invited on a behind the scenes tour of Paris Metro Line 14. And always eager to see a new side of the city, I accepted almost immediately. Special thanks to Explore Paris (a company dedicated to tours depicting another side of the city) for allowing me to come along on the RATP – The building site of the future station Pont Cardinet on line 14 tour…
The Paris Metro Line 14 Extension Project
The Metro Line 14 currently serves Saint Lazare to Olympiades in a diagonal East-West line across the centre of the city. Newly inaugurated on the 15 October 1998 (the original line 14 dated back to the 70s and has since been incorporated into line 13), the line has already been extended twice since the 1990s. From the outset, this metro line has been fully automated, the first of its kind.
The latest project sets out to extend the line to both the North and the South, with four new stations appearing in the North during the process (as well as a service station); Pont Cardinet, Porte de Clichy, Clichy Saint-Ouen and Mairie de Saint-Ouen.
Eventually, line 14 is set to cut through Paris and intersect with the Grand-Paris-Express, a future service that will loop its way around the entire city suburbs, as well as Orly airport in the South. And, as anyone who has flown in and out of Orly will know, getting to the airport currently can be much more complicated than you might expect!
The primary goal of the Northern extension is to alleviate the sheer volume of passengers and overcrowding on line 13. The new project will also see all of the six-carriage trains being replaced with eight-carriage cars. These eight-carriage trains will accommodate a staggering 932 passengers and have 216 seats. Another equally impressive fact is that the new metro will travel at 40 km/h as opposed to the standard 25 km/h.
Behind the Scenes of the Paris Metro Line 14 Extension
Our visit was behind the scenes was on a particularly springlike day in Paris to Station Pont Cardinet in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. The station will serve the South of Clichy-Batignolles, with the entrance being located right next to the Parc Martin Luther King (which is incidentally in full bloom come cherry blossom season in the city).
Perhaps what surprised me the most about the metro tour is exactly how the tunnels are built (and how interesting hearing about the process was for someone who doesn’t necessarily usually have an interest in these things).
For example, though I can’t claim to have understood much regarding the construction process (!!), something that I found particularly intriguing is that the ‘curved roof shape’ of the station itself was not structural. Instead, the roof is built in a rectangular manner and a curve is added later with wooden moulds to give the metro its vaulted distinctive look.
Other building notes of interest include the fact that the tiling of the metro station is in fourteen concentric circles, delineating that you are indeed on Metro Line 14! More problematic during the build is that there was quite a lot of freestanding water underground in some parts of the new line 14. Rather than removing the water or trying to find its source, the water has instead been slowly frozen.
Furthermore, the entirety of Paris is built on sand and rock layers, which lends itself to tunnelling and taverns across the city. After all, aside from the metro, the Catacombs of Paris and parts of the Petite Ceinture also snake their way beneath the city. Finally, the Northern extension of line 14 is meant to be open in Summer 2020… Watch this space!