FRANCE: The Cour des Comptes, the independent body responsible for auditing the use of public funds, has called for the scope and timescale of the Grand Paris Express project to be revised.

In a hard-hitting report published on January 17, the Cour des Comptes highlights a succession of increases in the cost of the Grand Paris Express project to build 200 route-km of metro line on orbital alignments around Paris. From €19bn at 2008 prices in 2010 the cost of the scheme as estimated by Société du Grand Paris rose to €22·625bn at 2012 prices in March 2013 and then to €25·14bn at 2012 prices in early 2017.

The government’s requirement to include contributions to related projects then added another €3·4bn. Worse, in late July 2017 Société du Grand Paris submitted a report to government revising its estimate for completion of the scheme to €35·08bn at 2012 prices, or €38·48bn including the contributions to related projects. The Cour des Comptes suggested that this was sufficiently serious to call into question ‘the socio-economic relevance’ of the whole scheme.

In a report on the Grand Paris Express scheme requested by the Prime Minister last August, the Prefet of Ile-de-France suggested that the construction timescale be extended, but this did not, according to the Cours des Comptes, ensure the long-term viability of the project. The financial arrangements, noted the Cour des Comptes, were fragile as they were too susceptible to changes in the economic environment, such as higher interest rates.

The Cours des Comptes also criticised the governance of Société du Grand Paris, which had led to a lack of transparency relating to the cost management and the timescale of the project. SGP’s ability to manage such a complex and technically demanding scheme was also in doubt, with arrangements for risk management only put in place at a late stage.

The timescale chosen so that lines 17 and 18 would be open in time for the Olympic Games in 2024 had also led to management concentrating on the speed of delivery rather than cost. The Cours des Comptes noted that the Centre d’Etudes des Tunnels doubted SGP’s ability to achieve the objective of having the lines open in time.

The Cours des Comptes made six recommendations to the government. These included setting a target cost for each line, ensuring the sustainability of the SGP’s finances by revising the scope of the project and phasing the costs, strengthening the control of the project to ensure that it was more tightly managed and widening the powers of SGP’s supervisory council.

  • The first tunnel boring machine is due to be launched at Champigny-sur-Marne on Line 15 in the next few days.