A LITTLE PIECE OF history was made in the north east of Paris on Sunday, 13th December. At noon, without fanfare or ceremony, a train entered the newly completed Gare Rosa Parks for the first time.
Named after the American civil rights activist, Rosa Parks, the Gare Rosa Parks is the first RER station to be built in the city since the Gare Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand in 2001.
Gare Rosa Parks becomes the twenty-second station on RER Line ‘E’, part of the RER (Réseau Express Régional) regional rapid transit system serving Paris and its suburbs.
The RER network comprises five lines of which two, Line ‘A’ and Line ‘B’, are operated by RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) and the other three, Lines ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’, are operated by SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français), the state-owned railway company.
As the display inside the newly opened station shows, Gare Rosa Parks is not the first station on this site. It was previously home to Gare Est-Ceinture, one of the stations of the Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture (the ‘little belt railway’) that, from 1852, was a circular connection between the Paris main railway stations within the fortified walls of the city. The Petite Ceinture was closed in 1934 and Gare Est-Ceinture, like many of the stations on the line, was demolished.
It took two hundred companies and almost five years of construction work to complete Gare Rosa Parks and several major challenges had to be confronted along the way.
To construct the 1,300 M2 station and its 25 metre long and 15 metre wide central quay, it was necessary to modify and rebuild 1.5 km of railway tracks. Around one thousand trains a day pass through the construction site so every detail of the work had to be planned some three years in advance to avoid disruption.
During the station’s construction some 150,000 M3 of material had to be excavated and more than 25,000 M3 of reinforced concrete had to be laid but the most impressive part of the operation was the creation of a passageway connecting the north and south of the area under the nine rail tracks above.
For six days, a huge prefabricated concrete parallelogram, 40 metres long and weighing 4,000 tonnes, was pushed into place by high-powered hydraulic cylinders while tons of earth were excavated.
The total bill for the station came to 130 million Euros, which was shared by the Île-de France regional authority (51.2%), the City of Paris (25.7%), the State (22.7%) and SNCF (0.4%).
Sounds inside Gare Rosa Parks:
As you can hear, although the construction work is now completed and the station is open for business, there is still some cosmetic work going on. On the day I was there, a man with a stonecutter was working in the reinforced concrete passageway and the sounds permeated periodically through the entire station.
The station, designed by the architects Jean-Marie Duthilleul and François Bonnefille, has been constructed with environmental protection in mind.
A series of photovoltaic cells installed on the 135 metres of platform shelters supply electric power for the exterior lighting. A specially designed roof on the central building heightens its thermal insulation capacity and a storm water recovery system installed on the roof provides water used for cleaning and for flushing the station’s toilets.
During the construction phase a carbon audit was carried out to measure the emissions of greenhouse gases generated by the site, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions commissioning the station will help to avoid (through the shift from road traffic to rail transport). The conclusion was that by 2032, CO2 emissions from the construction site will have been compensated for and by 2066 some 80,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent will have been avoided.
To reduce the waiting time, five trains have been added to the RER Line ‘E’ fleet so trains will run every six minutes and every four minutes at peak times.
Approximately 50,000 travellers a day are expected to use Gare Rosa Parks but this will rise to around 85,000 in 2020 when RER Line ‘E’ will be extended westward to Mantes-la-Jolie. This extension will include the construction of an eight-kilometre tunnel between the current western terminus Haussmann – St-Lazare and La Défense from where Line ‘E’ will take over the part of RER Line ‘A’ to Nanterre, Sartrouville and Poissy and then a section of the SNCF tracks to reach Mantes-la-Jolie. The extension is expected to open in 2018 and be fully operational in 2020.
In an example of joined-up thinking, Gare Rosa Parks has connections to other forms of public transport: Tram Line 3b, the N° 54, 60 and 239 buses and Vélib and Véligo bicycle stations. Studies are also being carried out to look at the possibility of extending the recently opened Tram Line T8 to Gare Rosa Parks.
The Rosa Parks tram stop outside Gare Rosa Parks
Gare Rosa Parks is situated in the nineteenth arrondissement close to Porte d’Aubervilliers, an area that for a long time has been run down and underserved by rail transport.
Now the area is being redeveloped and with an influx of people expected over the coming years, Gare Rosa Parks is a welcome addition to the local public transport network.