Story of the Parisian Subway
With 169 km of tunnels and 273 stations, the Parisian underground uses an enormous network of galleries, corridors and stairs. The subway has become an essential way of transportation for every Parisians in their daily life. It is a link beetween the districts of the capital and the Parisians.
At the end of the XIXth century, Paris had 2.5 million inhabitants for an area of 78 kmà² (32 043 inhabitants / kmà²). Thus, the necessity of a quick and efficient mean of transportation, to link the entire city became obvious and crucial.
From 1855 and onward, numerous projects, one after another, they imaged some even project, both aerial (above all the busy broadways) or underground, started taking shape.
In 1872, the « conseil général de la Seine » wanted to construct a steam railway composed of two perpendicular axis North/South and Est/West.
Nevertheless, this plan was never executed.
In 1875, linking by tunnels the five train stations in Paris to a central station located under the « Palais Royal » was considered. But it was yet an other project dropped, and Parisians were still talking about a subway 25 years later…
It was not until 1895, not long before the Universal Exhibition of 1900, that was considered to build a tunel system linking all existing stations.
The first line, Porte de Vincennes – Porte Maillot, was inaugurated in july 1900.
This almost straight line, with a length of 11 km, had 18 stations. The subway (« The Métropolitain »), was immediately an enormous success, becoming a busy line very quickly. Three months later, 17 million passengers were already using the subway. From this moment, some major work began in Paris to build the urban electric railway. 30 years were necessary to build the entire network, under the direction of Fulgence Bienvenà»e.
The majority of the Parisian Métropolitain was built before 1930,
just a few stations in the suburbs, like Saint Denis were added more recently.
The lines on viaducs represent 5% of the whole Metro, and are concentrated in the North and the South of the capital.
In a few areas, steep slopes couldn’t be avoided, in particular under « la butte de Montmartre », where the subway cross a former gypsum mine, through some tight tubes. But the majority of the Parisian network is only a few meters underground, or less than a meter under the parisian streets.
In certain places, the intersection of the lines required technical ingenuity. Thus, under « Place de l’Opéra », three lines are superimposed in the same point, drawing an enormous tangle of ways, stations and corridors.