‘Utter absurdity’: Paris city hall vows to fight €600m Gare du Nord revamp

Paris city hall has promised to fight a government decision to give the go-ahead to a €600m (£540m) redevelopment of Europe’s busiest railway station, the Gare du Nord, described by its opponents as an urban disaster.

“The city will explore all possible political and legal routes to block this project, using all the tools at our disposition,” Emmanuel Grégoire, the deputy mayor for urban development, said on Wednesday. “We will be appealing, obviously.”

Grégoire described the project as “an utter absurdity” and the timescale for its completion as “neither credible nor serious”. Serge Remy, the head of a local residents’ group, said the overhaul was “bad for users and bad for residents”.

Under the plans, the sprawling, 150-year-old station – whose SNCF national services to northern France, international Eurostar and Thalys trains to the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, four suburban RER lines and two Paris Métro lines serve about 700,000 passengers a day – is due to more than triple in size.

With passenger numbers forecast to rise to 900,000 a day by 2030, the dilapidated complex needs to become “a new setting for urban life, combining commerce, sport, culture and work”, said Michel Cadot, the prefect of the Île-de-France region, announcing the government’s decision on Tuesday.

Work would start “as soon as possible”, the consortium running the project said on Wednesday, with a tight timetable scheduled to bring the project to completion in time for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.

Opponents believe the scheme is too ambitious and too commercial, with 46,000 sq metres of extra space planned for shops, offices and a gym. About 30,000 sq metres are to be added to the arrivals and departures halls, while a 1-hectare planted roof terrace is planned with a view of the Sacré-Coeur basilica.

“We are not opposed to the station’s renovation, which is necessary,” Grégoire told a press conference at city hall. “But the Gare du Nord should be a railway station before all else, not a shopping centre before it is a station.”

Criticised on technical grounds in several experts’ reports, the project – known as StatioNord – has also been attacked by leading architects and urban planners. A group of 20 described it in Le Monde last year as “architecturally unacceptable”, “a real offence to passengers” and “a grave planning mistake”.