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The metro, an urban revolution

Paris and its metro have a long history, which has fundamentally changed the face of the city and mobility uses. With the common thread being the incredible capacity of this mode of transport, that is over a century old, to renew and reinvent itself.

The flagship event of the 1900 Paris exposition, the inauguration of the metro, opened a new page in the history of the French capital. It was not the first such network: the London Underground in 1863 had a lead on Paris. But the Paris metro stands out for its unique integration, making it a real mode of everyday transport, with frequent trains and stations that are not very deep, unlike London with its stations far below ground level and much further apart. Parisians took to it immediately: by December 1900 it had already carried nearly 17 million passengers! From then on, it has constantly adapted to changes in the French capital, shaping the urban landscape with its tunnels, viaducts, station entrances, which have become landmarks and meeting points. Thirty years after that hot month of July 1900, when the first intrepid passengers left Porte Maillot station bound for Porte de Vincennes, the metro was extended to the suburbs.

After having crossed the symbolic milestone of 100 km of inner-Paris lines in 1922, it started to serve the inner suburbs as from the 1930s, thus establishing the concept of urban agglomeration. The tram network having been completely dismantled, it was the metro that absorbed the increasingly dense traffic between the heart of the city and neighbouring towns. World War II put a stop to this momentum, and the return to major investment in the network had to wait until the 1970s. As car congestion began to weigh on the capital and its outskirts, the metro had to expand and improve its appeal, to convince Parisians to leave their cars at home. Paris was changing, new perspectives were emerging, such as the skyline of La Défense, extending the perspective of the Tuileries and the Champs-Élysées. Metro line 1 became the link between this historic Paris and the new business district, connecting with the futuristic RER station designed by the architect of Orly airport, Henri Vicariot.


In 1998, the metro proved once again that it had not finished innovating. For the first time since 1937, a new metro line crossed Paris. And this metro line 14 was the first to be completely driverless. A technical revolution at the time, the automated metro has become the new benchmark. Today it is at the heart of the creation of efficient public transport systems in large cities facing the challenge of traffic congestion and air pollution. Won over by its appeal, the cities of Dubai, Riyadh and Doha have chosen to build their urban mobility networks around it.

But it is not only for new lines. In 2012, RATP teams achieved the feat of fully automating metro line 1, the oldest and busiest on the network. In 2022, it will be the turn of another historic line, with the full automation of metro line 4 without major disruption in traffic throughout the duration of the works.

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