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Grand Paris Express: the biggest infrastructure project in Europe

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4 December 2017 - Projects update and handover - France

With 200 km of new metro lines – the equivalent of the existing network – forming a ring around the capital, the Grand Paris Express will bring Paris into the 21st century by transforming residents’ mobility and reshaping the different areas. For VINCI, and for all the players in the sector, it offers considerable opportunities: in the near term with the underground and civil engineering works and in the longer term with the urban renewal projects around the new stations.

It’s the worksite of the century in the Paris region, and a project to give the Paris conurbation a transport system commensurate with its growth momentum and ambitions. Under the name of the Grand Paris Express, more than 200 km of new metro lines (see map) will be built between now and 2030, 85% of them underground, together with 68 new stations, interconnected with existing transport networks. The Grand Paris Express places Paris firmly in the 21st century: after construction throughout the 20th century of metro and RER regional express lines radiating out from the centre of the capital, the objective today is to create a new ring network that enables suburb-to-suburb travel without having to pass through the heart of Paris and also provides direct links to the airports. The system will bring major benefits for the many Paris region residents who live or work in areas today poorly served by public transport. For instance, a student living in Clichy Montfermeil will be able to reach the Université de Créteil in just 30 minutes instead of 90 minutes today, while travel time from the Gare de Lyon to Orly Airport will be halved, to 25 minutes instead of 50 today. Another objective of the new system, in phase with the environmental challenges of the 21st century, is to limit urban sprawl around Paris by densifying already urbanised areas that will now be connected to the heart of the conurbation and will benefit from urban upgrading projects around the new stations. All told, the Grand Paris Express will carry 2 million passengers a day and will serve 6 million people.

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SINCE THE INTERNATIONAL CONSULTATION launched in 2007, it has taken almost a decade – and a whole series of laws and institutional reforms to create a new framework bringing together the elected officials and areas concerned – for this enormous project to move from ambition to reality. Société du Grand Paris, a state-owned industrial and commercial undertaking, was set up to steer deployment and financing of the new system. The investment, financed by public subsidies, allocated tax receipts and borrowing, amounts to €25 million for the Grand Paris Express itself, with another €8 billion for the upgrading and extension works on the existing networks carried out by the STIF, the transport organising authority for the Paris region.

THE IMPACT ON EMPLOYMENT reflects the scale of the project: the Grand Paris Express will generate 15,000 direct jobs a year during works phase, and more than 115,000 indirect jobs thanks to the economic growth engendered by the new system, more particularly over the 140 square kilometres – one and a half times the size of inner Paris – of the areas that will be directly impacted by the 68 stations. The project timetable has been tightened after the nomination of Paris as host city for the 2024 Olympic Games. The majority of the lines, including those serving the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, are now scheduled to come into service at the end of 2023 instead of in 2024 as initially planned.

"IT'S AN EXCEPTIONAL OPPORTUNITY for Group companies. Between the Grand Paris Express, the ongoing light-rail line extensions and upgrading of the existing networks, especially the RER regional express, the Paris region is seeing an unprecedented concentration of works,” says Robert Bello, delegation director for Eurovia Île de France-Normandie and coordinator of VINCI’s Île de France Pivot Club. “The impact is very evident and immediate in terms of underground works and civil engineering for VINCI Construction, but there are also significant opportunities for Eurovia and VINCI Energies, not only with the future line equipment works but with everything related to emerging needs and facilities. VINCI Immobilier is also well placed to capitalise on development projects associated with the stations.” As platforms for cross-cutting exchanges, the Paris region Pivot Club and its specialised Infrastructure and Regions and Development clubs foster sharing of information and collective brainstorming between the Group’s different players. As Robert Bello explains, “The Regions and Development club lets us take a collective and coordinated approach, which is crucial for responding to calls for projects concerning the urban development operations following on from the Grand Paris Express.”

THIS WAS THE CASE, FOR INSTANCE, WITH THE INTERNATIONAL CONSULTATION “Invent the Grand Paris Metropolitan Area”, launched over the last few months by the French government, the Métropole du Grand Paris and Société du Grand Paris. It invited consortiums of companies to imagine, from scratch, complete development projects for 57 sites (disused industrial sites, former public facilities, areas on the fringes of towns, etc.) inspired by “green” urban innovation and multi-use practices. VINCI put together 23 joint ventures that responded to the call for projects, 18 of which went through to the final phase.

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THE WORKSITES OF THE GRAND PARIS EXPRESS are already mobilising the energies of the Group’s builders. “Compliance with deadlines is central to requirements, even more with the Olympic Games milestone,” confirms Patrick Kadri, executive vice-president, VINCI Construction Grands Projets. “Société du Grand Paris is meeting its commitments: the pace of calls for tender, release of land and preliminary operations such as rerouting utilities is extraordinarily fast, especially for such densely developed urban sites. We’ve moved into industrial mode to respond to the calls for tender. For Line 15 Sud, the first to be launched, we’ve handed in bids amounting to several millions of euros every two months – a quite unprecedented rate!” Patrick Kadri’s “we” encompasses not only the design teams of VINCI Construction Grands Projets, but also those of VINCI Construction France, VINCI Construction Terrassement, Dodin Campenon Bernard, Botte Fondations, VINCI Construction Terrassement and their outside partners, brought together on a 900 sq. metre platform in Chevilly Larue, in the south of Paris. “Some 60 people are working there full time and up to 140 people are mobilised around these bids if we count the joint venture’s in-house engineering teams,” says Patrick Kadri.
Their efforts have produced results. Two joint ventures led by VINCI Construction in association with Spie Batignolles have won two contracts for Line 15 Sud. The first, worth €926 million, is to build a 9.2 km tunnel and five new stations (see box). The second, worth €156 million, covers building the new Noisy Champs station designed by architect Jean-Marie Duthilleul (a particularly ambitious project with its spiral dome), together with a train storage yard and a bridge over the RER A lines. VINCI Construction and SPIE have also been awarded another major project linked to the Grand Paris transport networks: construction of a new RER station at La Défense under the CNIT building, as part of the Line E extension (Eole project). This highly technical project involves building an underground “cathedral” while supporting the CNIT structures and ensuring continuity of operation for this densely frequented site throughout the entire duration of the works.

IN ADDITION, SOLETANCHE BACHY, a VINCI Construction subsidiary and a world leader in special foundations that works with all the big construction groups in France and internationally, is involved in other Line 15 projects, alongside Bouygues Travaux Publics: construction of the Fort d’Issy Vanves Clamart station – the first Grand Paris Express project – launched in March 2016, and two sections of track: the T2A section between the Villejuif Louis Aragon and Créteil L’Échat stations and the T3A section between Sèvres and the Fort d’Issy Vanves Clamart station. The scale of some of the projects is so enormous that construction groups, even the majors, are having to join forces. For instance, VINCI and Bouygues Travaux Publics have submitted a joint bid for the Line 16 mega-package, which covers 19 km of tunnels and – unlike the packages already awarded – includes the line equipment works. The final decision concerning award of this mega-package is now expected at end-2017.
“You have to understand that there will be up to 24 tunnel-boring machines in operation at the same time in 2020,” says Patrick Kadri. Right now, between responses to ongoing calls for tender, construction design studies for the projects awarded and preparation or launch of the first works, pressure is mounting, both on the Chevilly Larue platform and on the worksite for the T3C package, which is kicking off on all fronts. “For the design studies today but especially for the works tomorrow,” says Robert Bello, “the Grand Paris is an enormous human challenge, not only for building up our own teams but also to respond to integration-through-work goals.” Société du Grand Paris insists that at least 5% of hours worked on the Grand Paris Express projects be earmarked for the long-term unemployed, who will have to be trained and supported over the long term. “Our aim is not to limit this approach to basic training, but to train skilled workers, foremen and managers, and to guarantee their continued employment after the completion of the works. For the T3C and T2D package of Line 15, VINCI Construction, with the support of ViE, the Group’s non-profit subsidiary dedicated to helping our companies meet these conditions, has committed to a goal of 420,000 work-integration hours. That adds up to around 8% of the number of hours estimated, totalling some 600 people. We have already set up training programmes for special works and for jobs such as tunnel topographer and tunnel miner.”

MOBILISATION LEVELS ARE ALSO HIGH at VINCI Immobilier, leader of the lion’s share of projects presented by the Group as part of the Invent the Grand Paris Metropolitan Area consultation. “This is a new situation, where local authorities entrust us with the missions traditionally awarded to developers and ask us to go even further by imagining the habitat and the city of tomorrow,” says Patrick Supiot, CEO of VINCI Immobilier’s business real estate and development arm. “We’ve worked with urban planners, sociologists, cultural and sports stakeholders and non-profit groups. The goal of this all-inclusive brainstorming exercise was to contribute an innovative vision of building and public space uses for every site concerned, by proposing shared-tenancy habitat or open-ended housing solutions, for instance. In this new context, we have an opportunity to become full-service city operators, and that’s a role our people are very enthusiastic about. A second consultation is scheduled for 2018, and we’re going to be ramping up our efforts even more.” The project of the century in the Paris region is only just beginning!