Projects with multiple funding sources and institutional actors can lead to lengthy bureaucratic reviews and delays.
Similar to the United States, projects in France receive a mix of national, regional, and local funding. At the same time however, project managers (e.g. IDFM and RATP) sometimes provide financing for parts of a project. IDFM receives funding from national, regional, and local governments, as well as passenger fares, and taxes on employers (which is the primary source of funding, at between 40-45 percent of IDFM’s overall budget), and some gasoline taxes.499 Whereas most of its budget is allocated to operations, a portion is dedicated to capital projects, and that amount is funded by the state, regions, and individual departments.500
Project ideas come about as a result of studies funded by the Île-de-France region and the French state, and carried out by the operator (typically, RATP) in close collaboration with the city. The project then moves to the Commission Nationale du Débat Public (National Commission for Public Debate—CNDP), which initiates the public consultation process in the affected jurisdictions. A consultation report is then composed to summarize the main themes of the public consultation.501
In 2017, France elected to integrate the disparate environmental assessments into one coordinated evaluation (requiring one application, one contact person, and one environmental permit).502 The permit application is submitted to the prefect (i.e. the national government’s representation in a given region), and the prefect conducts a review, public inquiry, and administers a decision.503 Interviewees expressed that this environmental review process is hard to understand and the efforts to streamline it have only made it more complicated. The decision to create a unified evaluation system was intended to simplify the environmental clearance process, but has created new challenges for transit megaprojects. One interviewee noted that the full environmental impacts of construction may not be fully known until a construction contractor is selected, and the contractor’s choice of digging methods can influence, for example, impacts on groundwater movement. Project sponsors may need to hire a contractor and keep them waiting for up to two years until the environmental review is complete, or risk submitting a partially incomplete assessment. With all of the tests combined into one environmental review, more extensive review is required that can add length to the project’s timeline, though the ultimate effect of this coordination is still unknown since the change was only recently adopted.
Similar to the United States, projects in France face potential delays due to lawsuits brought by constituent groups that want to delay or obstruct a project. However, unlike in the United States, transportation-related lawsuits tend to be brought mostly against road projects, though pushback against transit projects does occur. The financial risk that results from litigation, opposition, and other forms of risk on average amounts to seven percent of total project costs. 504 Other interviewees felt that political leaders often set unrealistic timelines for mega projects, particularly in advance of elections. As a result, projects can be expected to have a six to nine month delay already baked into their timeline.
Opposition to projects are primarily based on environmental concerns. These objections may target specific impacts on species in the ROW, or focus on procedural elements or inadequacy of the environmental review process. In contrast, the GPE is generally viewed in a positive light by the public as it is seen as providing an acute need for providing improved connections between the suburbs and the city of Paris. Currently, residents living along the periphery have fewer transit options to commute between suburbs, but rather have to travel into central Paris and transfer lines.
While there was a broad consensus in favor of the GPE, one notable exception involved Line 17, which will run through the suburbs of northern Paris and serve both Le Bourget and Charles De Gaulle Airports. Line 17 was the subject of significant environmental opposition, specifically with regard to the station serving Triangle de Gonesse, a 2.9 square mile greenfield north of Le Bourget airport. As part of the GPE, the French government proposed developing 1.1 square miles of the greenfield, including a dense, 0.3 square mile commercial and retail center called EuropaCity.505 EuropaCity, and consequently Line 17, was subject to significant pushback over the impact of development on the area’s natural farmland. The project also received opposition from groups that were against the project’s commercial, private nature and viewed the project as a symbol of consumerism.506
In a January 2018 report, the national department overseeing environmental review of transportation and urban development—the General Counsel for Environment and Sustainable Development—determined that there were signific ant gaps in the environmental assessment of Line 17, particularly on the impact of the project on water resources, species, and other habitats in Gonesse. 507 The report also found that the EIA did not adeq uately distinguish between the impacts of the metro line itself with the proposed urban development, and called for additional studies and revision and inclusion of alternative scenarios.
Citing similar inadequacies in its environmental assessment, a court in Montreuil ordered the suspension of all work on Line 17 near Gonesse for one year in November 2019 pending additional study and development of mitigation measures for the line’s potential impacts on protected avian breeding sites.508 Amid continued opposition, President Emmanuel Macron formally cancelled the EuropaCity project in November 2019, and while an alternative plan is in the works, the future of the development zone is uncertain.509
The suspension of work on Line 17 was ultimately overturned by a court of appeals in Versailles in November 2020, ruling that the project fell under the jurisdiction of the administrative court in Paris, which had authority over public projects associated with the 2024 Olympics.510 Construction on the rest of Line 17 resumed shortly after, and while the segment serving Le Bourget airport is expected to open by 2024, other elements of the line will likely be delayed as a result of the suspension.511