Emmanuel Macron promises to connect French cities to their outskirts with new rail network

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By Gael Camba
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) inspects a RER A train
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) inspects a RER A train   -   Copyright  Ludovic MARIN / AFP

In a surprise move, French president Emmanuel Macron has announced plans to develop an urban railway network in 10 major French cities, an unplanned promise that surprised local representatives and his own government.

His goal is to unclog traffic and boost the fight against climate change in major cities where commuting is a daily struggle. The plan is modelled on the RER - a Parisian railway network connecting a central metro and tramway system with the city's suburbs during off-peak time.

Macron made this announcement in a video on his Youtube channel where he answered people's questions about climate change, energy, transport, waste policy and whether or not hydrogen cars were an ecological scam.

Local representatives happily surprised

Local representatives were happily surprised. On 22 October, the presidents of 15 regions previously vowed to install their own "metropolitan RERs" in a joint op-ed published in Le Monde newspaper. They called for a "new rail deal", and they have since praised the president's announcement.

The mayor of Lyon Grégory Doucet tweeted: "We are ready in #Lyon. This is a policy in the interest of all. Make the train great again!"

Projects may take ten years to finalise

In the video, Macron eluded to his origins, saying he is  "the grandson of a rail worker" and that he "deeply believes in the train". But this comes a couple of weeks after the government withdrew a €3 billion investment bill for railways. 

Some opposition leaders think this statement is out of sync as some transport authorities struggle to wrap up their budget for 2023.

According to the northern Hauts-de-France region president, the Grand Lille Express Network project has already been launched, but it is still awaiting state funding. 

The government warned some projects will take "ten years or more" to be finalised.