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Tourists flocking to Paris for the 2024 Olympic Games won’t be setting any records for the time it takes to get downtown from the airport.
The French government has decided to delay works on a direct rail link between the capital city and the Charles de Gaulle airport, saying that pressing ahead to complete it by the end of 2023, as planned, would have been too disruptive for commuters who travel on a suburban train that connects stations between the airport and central Paris.
“Our priority for day-to-day transport isn’t a slogan; that means taking decisions that are sometimes difficult,” said transport minister Elisabeth Borne.
The lack of a high-speed link may take the shine off Paris’s Olympic Games and delay a much-needed upgrade of an overburdened transport network. The delay is also a damper for airport operator Aeroports de Paris and Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM, which uses Charles de Gaulle as one of its two main global hubs, along with Schiphol airport in the Netherlands.
Paris is one of the few major global cities with no dedicated rail link to its main airport, and the trip can take just under an hour, sometimes longer. Although the CDG Express link was part of the city’s infrastructure pledge for its Olympic bid, the committee for the games, Paris 2024, said in a statement Wednesday that the delay in its completion won’t hurt visitors’ transport conditions.
“The new line of transport aiming to link in 20-some minutes the Charles de Gaulle airport to the center of Paris would not have served any site for the Olympics or Para-Olympics,” it said.
Around 200,000 passengers pass through Charles de Gaulle every day and 900,000 use the suburban train, RER B. The government also wants to reduce the use of road transport, which accounts for 56 percent of trips to the airport.
The government said the CDG Express project will now be completed by the end of 2025, limiting the risk to the broader train network.
“We are committed because CDG Express is indispensable for Paris,” Borne said.
For the Olympic games, the government has asked rail operator SNCF to run a dedicated service on the RER B line to increase capacity.
Local political leaders welcomed the decision to delay the project and said they would keep pressuring the government to ensure it doesn’t disrupt the lives of Parisians.
“This rail link will firstly benefit tourists and should in no case be completed to the detriment of public transport,” the Paris mayor’s office said in a statement.
The government “is finally being reasonable: priority to daily commuters must be given!” Valerie Pecresse, who heads the Greater Paris region authority, said in a tweet. Foreseeing additional hurdles and delays, she also warned: “The region will remain vigilant about the urgent modernization of the RER B and damages for travelers in case of hurdles.”
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.