France’s national rail operator announced Tuesday night that it was abandoning the gigantic and controversial project to transform the Gare du Nord in Paris, citing “unbearable deviations”, particularly in terms of costs.
The redesign had been conceived with Ceetrus, a subsidiary of the Auchan supermarket chain.
“Faced with unsustainable deviations from contractual commitments, SNCF Gares & Connexions” can only verify the serious failure of its concessionaire and declare its withdrawal, “the SNCF subsidiary responsible for the stations said in a statement.
The project consisted of tripling the area of the largest station in Europe in preparation for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, to be held in the French capital.
Following the SNCF announcement, the Paris City Council called for “no more postponement of the modernization and renovation of the station.”
“We are available and ready to undertake a new renovation project for the Gare du Nord that will serve everyday users, urban integration and intermodality,” Emmanuel Grégoire, First Deputy Mayor, said in a statement.
SNCF Gares & Connexions had been warned in July that the projected cost of the work had dropped, raising the bill to more than 1,500 million euros, compared to the 500 million euros still expected at the end of 2020, and that there was a ” considerable delay “preventing it from being completed by the 2024 Olympics as initially planned.
After abandoning the project with Ceetrus, SNCF Gares & Connexions now promises a “rapid adaptation of the Gare du Nord to the challenges” of the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the Olympic Games in 2024.
Likewise, it is committed to “designing a new transformation project (…) drawn up in close consultation with interested public actors.”
The concession was awarded to SA Gare du Nord 2024 (StatioNord), a joint venture formed by the real estate company Ceetrus (66%), a subsidiary of Auchan – responsible for the design, works and financing – and SNCF Gares & Connexions.
In the initial version of the transformation project, the Gare du Nord was to have a total area of 124,000 square meters with an additional 88,000 square meters, of which almost half would be dedicated to an auditorium, cultural facilities, a sports hall. as well as shops and offices.
The project had been the subject of a long controversy with the Paris City Council, which had deemed it too commercial and disconnected from the neighborhood, even though it had originally approved it.
In September 2020, a score of renowned architects, including Jean Nouvel and Roland Castro, denounced an “unacceptable” and “pharaonic” project in a column published by the newspaper Le Monde, calling for it to be “rethought from top to bottom.”
In November, a less ambitious version of the project was adopted that reduced the area of shops and services by 15% (or about 7,500 square meters) and eliminated the auditorium.
The schedule also pushed back the project’s timelines.
He envisioned a reconfiguration of the Eurostar terminal ahead of the Rugby World Cup in September 2023, and the delivery of the new departure terminal by June 2024, just in time for the Olympics.
But the opening of the new complex was no longer expected before 2025.
More than 700,000 people pass through the Gare du Nord every day “and 900,000 are expected by 2030,” said Aude Landy-Berkowitz, chairman of the board of StatioNord, in January.