Controversy at the Gates of Paris: A Look at the 4.5 Billion Euro Metro Project Crossing the Saclay Plateau

It is a titanic project at 4.5 billion euros at the gates of Paris. A metro in the countryside for 35 km with aerial portions on a viaduct. Line 18 will link Versailles to Orly airport in 2030. The project is contested by some environmental activists.

To the south-west of Paris, in Essonne, the Saclay plateau is one of the rare green lungs still preserved near the capital. But in a few years, metro 18 will cross the fields to serve the major French universities in particular. A project qualified as being of national interest by the State, which has acquired agricultural land.

Cristiana Modica has been cultivating fields of wheat and legumes organically for 26 years in Villiers-le-Bâcle (Essonne). She had to give up 14 hectares against compensation, the equivalent of 20 football pitches. “The metro will pass through the fields”, laments the farmer. The damage is much more than financial, it is environmental, according to her. “It’s incredibly violent. It’s just a massacre and an ineptitude to cement the little land that has remained at the gates of Paris”she regrets.

To defend her land, the farmer welcomed a ZAD, an area to be defended, on her fields. The camp is under high surveillance. It is one of the 42 sensitive sites identified by the Ministry of the Interior because “likely to radicalize”, according to the authorities who have issued an ultimatum. The ZAD must be evacuated by its occupants before Monday, June 5.

“Seeing the concrete Saclay plateau breaks my heart”

Sabrina sleeps in a small cabin installed in the ZAD, like twenty activists who have lived in the camp for 2 years. And even if they are forced to leave the site, they intend to maintain their fight with a clear message: “no concrete on fertile land” of Ile-de-France. “For ten years, I have seen the plateau being built, being concreted, it breaks my heart”, saddens an activist. As for Sabrina, from the collective “against line 18”, she denounces the route of this metro: “The line does not serve many people. These are villages that are there, of the order of 2,000 inhabitants”.

The Greater Paris company refutes the argument of environmentalists and affirms that the metro will accommodate up to 118,000 passengers per day. In total, 190,000 jobs are also affected by line 18. Nevertheless, on a third of the line, between Saint-Aubin and Versailles, attendance will be limited. “Its immediate social utility seems quite low, the expected traffic, even in 2030, remaining limited to 1,000 to 2,000 passengers at the morning rush hour”according to the last public survey of 2021.

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Some villages won’t even benefit from it. The line will cross them without stopping. This is the case of Villiers-le-Bâcle, a town of 1,200 inhabitants. “The problem is that there is no planned station just in front of the village. We have the disadvantages without having the advantages”regrets a resident. “It passes just behind the village, we hope there won’t be too much noise”is alarmed another resident of Villiers-le-Bâcle.

“The metro is a real plus to be able to serve the Saclay plateau”

Despite the concern of some residents, the project is defended by many elected officials, such as the mayor of Palaiseau. He sees it as a great opportunity to link the suburbs together and reduce the use of cars.

“Do we want people who already come to work here every day, who come to study here, and live here, to travel by car and come and create monster traffic jams all over the territory? we want these people to be able to travel by automatic metro, which is an economic, social and environmental solution? I think that the metro is a real plus to be able to serve this Saclay plateau”defends Grégoire de Lasteyrie, mayor (Horizons) of Palaiseau (Essonne).

Contacted, the Grand Paris company claims that the line will only impact 22 hectares of agricultural land. The first metros should run in 2026.

2023-06-01 01:14:48
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