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RER sign.png
Paris public transport
Métro lines
Paris m 1 jms.svg line 1 Paris m 7bis jms.svg line 7bis
Paris m 2 jms.svg line 2 Paris m 8 jms.svg line 8
Paris m 3 jms.svg line 3 Paris m 9 jms.svg line 9
Paris m 3bis jms.svg line 3bis Paris m 10 jms.svg line 10
Paris m 4 jms.svg line 4 Paris m 11 jms.svg line 11
Paris m 5 jms.svg line 5 Paris m 12 jms.svg line 12
Paris m 6 jms.svg line 6 Paris m 13 jms.svg line 13
Paris m 7 jms.svg line 7 Paris m 14 jms.svg line 14
RER lines
Paris rer A jms.svg line A Paris rer D jms.svg line D
Paris rer B jms.svg line B Paris rer E jms.svg line E
Paris rer C jms.svg line C
Suburban rail (Transilien)
Paris logo banlieu jms.svg Saint-Lazare Paris logo banlieu jms.svg Nord
Paris logo banlieu jms.svg La Défense Paris logo banlieu jms.svg Est
Paris logo banlieu jms.svg Montparnasse Paris logo banlieu jms.svg Lyon
Airport shuttles
Paris logo orlyval jms.svg CDGVAL Paris logo orlyval jms.svg Orlyval
Paris logo bus jms.svg Bus (RATP) Paris logo noctilien jms.svg Noctilien
  Bus (Optile)  
Paris tram 1 jms.svg Tramway T1 Paris tram 2 jms.svg Tramway T2
Paris tram 3 jms.svg Tramway T3 Paris tram 4 jms.svg Tramway T4
Montmartre funicular

The RER (Réseau Express Régional, French pronunciation: [ɛʁəɛʁ], "Regional Express Network") is a rapid transit system in France serving Paris and its suburbs. The RER is an integration of a modern city-centre rail and a pre-existing set of regional rail lines. Within the city of Paris, the RER is as an express network with multiple connections with the Paris Métro. Since 1999 the network has consisted of five lines: A, B, C, D and E. The RER is still expanding; Line E, which opened only in 1999, is a likely candidate for extension.



The central part of the RER was completed through a massive civil engineering effort between 1962 and 1977, and has some unusually spacious, deep stations. The RER serves 246 stops and runs over 587 km (365 miles) of track, including 76.5 km (48 miles) underground. Thirty-three stops are within the city of Paris. Each line crosses the city almost exclusively underground and on dedicated tracks. The RER is operated partly by the RATP, the city transport authority that operates the Métro, and partly by SNCF, the national rail operator; the differences are of little concern to riders during normal operations because of the seamless fare structure and absence of transfers needed at SNCF/RATP boundaries. Total traffic on the central sections of lines A and B, operated by RATP, was 452 million in 2006; total traffic on all lines operated by SNCF (both RER and Transilien trains) was 657 million passengers.[1]

The RATP operates 66 RER stations, Line B south of Gare du Nord and branches, and Line A - all eastern branches, and the western branch to Saint Germain en Laye from Nanterre Prefecture. All RER track on lines A and B within Paris is maintained and operated by RATP.

SNCF line D interlaces with RATP line B rolling stock by sharing RATP track slots on line B between Gare du Nord and Châtelet. On the sections of shared track, each company operates separately: the SNCF RER operates on RFF track and the RATP on its own. Of these RATP RER stations, 9 have interchanges with Metro lines, and 9 with the Transilien SNCF service.[2]

The RATP celebrated the 30th anniversary of the opening of the line A and line B junction on 8 December 2007.




The origins of the RER can be traced back to the 1936 Ruhlmann-Langewin plan of the Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris (Metropolitan Railway Company of Paris) for a wide-bodied "métropolitain express" (express metro). The CMP's post-war successor, the RATP, revived the scheme in the 1950s, and in 1960 an interministerial committee decided to go ahead with construction of a first, east-west, line. As its instigator, the RATP was granted authority to run the new link and the SNCF ceded operation of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye line (to the west of Paris) and the Vincennes line (to the east). The embryonic (and as yet unnamed) RER was not properly conceived until the 1965 Schéma directeur d'aménagement et d'urbanisme, which foresaw an "H"-shaped network with two north-south routes. Only a single north-south axis crossing the Left Bank has so far come to fruition, although the Métro's Line 13 has been extended to perform a similar function.


In the first phase of construction, the Saint-Germain and Vincennes lines became the ends of the east-west Line A, whose central section was opened station by station between 1969 and 1977. On its completion Line A was joined by the initial southern leg of the north-south Line B. During this first phase, six new stations were built, three entirely underground and all on a grand scale.

Construction was ceremonially inaugurated by Robert Buron, Minister for Public Works, at the Pont de Neuilly on 6 July 1961, four years before the publication of the official network blueprint. The rapid expansion of the La Défense business district in the west made this western section of the new east-west route a priority. Such was the scale of the work that it was not until 12 December 1969 that the first new station (and the RER name) was inaugurated, at Nation on the eastern section. Nation thus became temporarily the new terminus of the Vincennes line from Boissy. A few weeks later came the long-awaited opening of the western line from Étoile (not yet renamed after Charles de Gaulle) to La Défense. A simple shuttle service, this western section was extended eastward to the newly-built central Auber station on 23 November 1971, and westward on 1 October 1972 to Saint-Germain-en-Laye through a connection to the Saint-Germain-en-Laye line, the oldest railway line into Paris, at Nanterre.

The RER network came into being on 9 December 1977 with the joining of the Nation-Boissy and Auber-Saint-Germain-en-Laye segments as the eastern and western halves of the RER Line A at Châtelet - Les Halles in the heart of Paris. The southern Ligne de Sceaux was simultaneously extended from Luxembourg to meet Line A at Châtelet – Les Halles, becoming the new Line B. The system of line letters was introduced to the public on this occasion, though it had been used internally at RATP and SNCF for some time.


A second phase, from the end of the 1970s, was of more soberly paced completion. The SNCF gained the right to operate its own routes, which became lines C, D and E. Extensive sections of suburban track were added to the network but only four new stations were built. Of these, two were comparable in audaciousness to those of the 1970s. The network was completed in the following stages:

  • Line C (following the Left Bank of the Seine) was added in 1979, involving the construction of a short cut-and-cover link between Invalides and Musée d'Orsay.
  • Line B extension to the Gare du Nord (1981) and the north (1983) was effected by a new deep tunnel from Châtelet - Les Halles.
  • Line D (north to south-east, via Châtelet – Les Halles) was completed in 1995, using a new deep tunnel between Châtelet – Les Halles and Gare de Lyon. No new building work was necessary at Châtelet – Les Halles, since, in an example of superb planning, additional platforms for Line D had been built at the time of the station's construction 20 years earlier.


Two aspects of the RER's pioneering phase in the 1960s and 1970s are particularly noteworthy. The first is the spectacular scale and expense of the enterprise. For example, FRF 2 billion were committed to the project in the budget of 1973 alone. This equates to roughly € 1.37 billion in 2005 terms, and closer to double that as a proportion of the region's (then much smaller) economic output.[3] This and subsequent spending is partly explained by the regional transport contribution, a small levy made on businesses that evidently benefit from the vast labour market put at their disposal by the RER. This peculiarly French invention was passed by a law in June 1971 and has been a permanent source of revenue for transport investment ever since.

Second, it is striking how little public consultation was made over such expenditures and tax innovations. Contrary to the lively public debate that accompanied the building of the Métro 70 years previously, the RER aroused little media attention and was essentially decided behind the closed doors of cabinet meetings. The will, and even idealism, of a handful of people, notably Pierre Giraudet, Director-General of the RATP, proved decisive in persuading ministers to grant credits. So too did the united front presented by the RATP and SNCF and their success at keeping within their budgets.[citation needed]


Central network of the RER at a geographically accurate scale
Vector map of the network


The predominance of suburban SNCF track on the RER network explains why RER trains run on the left, like SNCF trains (except in Alsace-Moselle), contrary to the Métro where trains run on the right. RER trains run by the two different operators share the same track infrastructure, a practice called interconnection. On the RER, interconnection required the development of specific trains (MI 79 series for Materiel d'Interconnexion 1979, and MI 2N series for Materiel d'Interconnexion à 2 niveaux (double-deck interconnection stock)) capable of operating under both 1.5 kV direct current on the RATP network and 25 kV / 50 Hz alternating current on the SNCF network. The MS 61 series (Matériel Simple 1961) can be used only on the 1.5 kV DC network.

The RER's tunnels have unusually large cross-sections. This is due to a 1961 decision to build according to a standard set by the Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer, with space for overhead catenary power supply to trains. Single-track tunnels measure 6.30 m across and double-track tunnels up to 8.70 m, meaning a cross-sectional area of up to 50 square metres, larger than that of the stations on many comparable underground rail networks.[4]


Paris RER lines
Line name Opened Last
Length Average
Journeys made
(per annum)
Paris rer A jms.svg Line A 1977 1994 46 108.5 km / 67.5 miles 2,411 m 272,800,000
Paris rer B jms.svg Line B 1977 1981 47 80.0 km / 49.8 miles 1,739 m 165,100,000
Paris rer C jms.svg Line C 1979 2000 84 185.6 km / 115.5 miles 2,184 m 140,000,000
Paris rer D jms.svg Line D 1987 1995 59 160.0 km / 99.6 miles 2,807 m 145,000,000
Paris rer E jms.svg Line E 1999 2003 21 52.3 km / 32.5 miles 2,615 m 60,000,000


Ten new stations have been built under the heart of Paris since the 1960s as part of the RER project. The six stations of Line A opened between 1969 and 1977 are:

Some controversy followed the construction of the Line A. Using the model of the existing Métro, and unlike any other underground network in the world, engineers elected to build the three new deep stations (Étoile, Auber and Nation) as single monolithic halls with lateral platforms and no supporting pillars. A hybrid solution of adjacent halls was rejected on the grounds that it "completely sacrificed the architectural aspect" of the oeuvre.[5] The scale in question was vast: the new stations cathédrales were up to three times longer, wider and taller than Métro stations, and hence 20 or 30 times more voluminous. Most importantly, unlike the Métro they were to be constructed entirely underground. The decision turned out to be expensive - around FFr 8 billion for the three stations, equivalent to € 1.2 billion in 2005 terms, with the two-level Auber the costliest of the three.[6] The comparison was obvious and unfavourable with London's Victoria Line, a deep line of 22 km constructed during the same period using a two-tunnel approach at vastly lower cost. However, the three stations represent undeniable engineering feats and are noticeably less claustrophobic than traditional underground stations.

Only two stations were inaugurated to complete Lines B, C and D:

  • Gare du Nord (1982): near-surface construction on two levels
  • St-Michel - Notre-Dame (1988): deep construction on an existing stretch of the Line B between Luxembourg and Châtelet - Les Halles with two tunnels, common in all other deep underground systems but unique in Paris. The station was actually built when the Luxembourg_Châtelet tunnel was dug as an enlargement of the tunnel itself. As this station is under the Seine river, it has a very narrow platform much like London Underground stations, and does not sport the usual architectural expanse of other stations.

Two stations were added to the network as part of Line E in the 1990s. They are notable for their lavishly spacious deep construction, a technique not used since Auber. Although similar to the three 1960s "cathedral stations" of Line A, their passenger traffic has so far proved vastly lower.


The social and economic impact of the RER is difficult to overstate. Journey times, particularly on east-west and north-south routes, have been cut spectacularly (and thanks to the cross-platform connection at Châtelet - Les Halles, even "diagonal" trips are rapid). As a result, the network has been an extraordinary popular success since its opening.

Lines A and B reached saturation relatively quickly, exceeding by far all traffic expectations: up to 55,000 passengers per hour in each direction on Line A, the highest such figure in the world outside Japan.[7] Despite a frequency of more than one train every two minutes, made possible by the installation of digital signalling in 1989, and the partial introduction of double-decker trains since 1998, the central stations of Line A are critically crowded at peak times.[8] Since both Métro and surface transport are equally congested at these times (and significantly slower), the RER's value to the economy of Île de France cannot be in doubt.

Used for leisure journeys, the RER represents no less of a revolution. By bringing far-flung suburbs within easy reach of central Paris, the network has significantly aided the reintegration of the traditionally insular capital with its periphery. The evidence of this social impact can be seen at Châtelet - Les Halles, whose neighbourhood is now crowded with suburbanites on evenings and weekends.

Future developments

Unofficial vision for the RER in 2025

Extensions to the RER focus on Line E, which ends at Haussmann - Saint-Lazare, serving only one side of Paris, unlike all other RER lines. Various Line E extensions have been proposed:[citation needed]

A new Line E station has been proposed at Rue de l'Évangile on the approach to Gare de l'Est, with a tentative opening date of 2014.[9]

Older plans existed for a line F, which would connect Argenteuil to Rambouillet via existing tracks of the Saint-Lazare and Montparnasse rail networks. A new tunnel would be bored below Paris, with the creation of a station at Invalides. The cost of the new tunnel, and the fact that Saint-Lazare and Montparnasse networks form a loop makes this project unlikely to happen.

International comparison

Locale Paris
Transit type Rapid transit Regional rail
Number of lines 5
Number of stations 257
Began operation 1977
Operator(s) RATP, SNCF
System length 587 km (365 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (standard gauge)

The RER is often compared with other urban rail networks that serve outer suburbs while fully crossing the city. Examples included the German, Swiss and Austrian S-Bahnen, the Spanish Cercanías, the RER networks of French-speaking Switzerland and (in construction) Brussels, SEPTA Regional Rail in Philadelphia, and the future Crossrail network in London.[citation needed]

However, there are two characteristics of the Paris RER that are not found in most other systems. Firstly, each RER line runs on independent dedicated track (except the tunnel between Gare du Nord and Châtelet, used by both lines B and D), with dedicated platforms in stations that are shared with other networks. This feature allows a high frequency, which on some lines exceeds that of the Paris Métro — a situation which in Europe is unique to Paris.[citation needed]

Secondly, the Paris RER serves almost exclusively the Paris urban area, reaching very few satellite towns. The exceptions are the southern branch of line C and the outer sections of line D. The compactness of the Paris conurbation can account for a good deal of the RER's more limited reach, as can the sprawling nature of the suburban SNCF network. This also explains why the scheduled train frequencies on the RER central network are as high as on the Paris métro network; one train every 120 seconds on RER A during rush hour [10].

See also


  • Gaillard, M. (1991). Du Madeleine-Bastille à Météor: Histoire des transports Parisiens, Amiens: Martelle. ISBN 2-87890-013-8. (French)
  • Gerondeau, C. (2003). La Saga du RER et le maillon manquant, Paris: Presse de l'École nationale des ponts et chaussées. ISBN 2-85978-368-7. (French)


  1. ^ Les transports en commun, edition 2005-2006, Mairie de Paris.
  2. ^ Statistiques Annuelles 2006, Départiment Commercial Tarification, Vente Résultats LAC A73 54,quai de la Rapée-75599 Paris
  3. ^ Gerondeau C, 2003, p77 : FRF 2bn "corresponding to around 9 billion francs in 2000", using the former FRF-€ exchange rate of 6.55957
  4. ^ Gerondeau C, 2003, p29
  5. ^ Internal RATP journal #226, October 1966, cited in Gerondeau C, 2003, p31
  6. ^ Gerondeau C, 2003, p34
  7. ^ RATP figures for 1992, cited in Gerondeau C, 2003, p61
  8. ^ (French) SACEM signalling on the French Wikipedia
  9. ^ STIF page for Evangile project
  10. ^ "RER A Timetable". RATP. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 

External links

Coordinates: 48°51′24″N 2°21′03″E / 48.85667°N 2.35083°E / 48.85667; 2.35083


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Réseau Express Régional (Regional Express Network)



  1. Initialism Réseau Express Régional, a Parisian tram, train and bus system.


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