In Paris, a Metro station is never more than 500m away and the 117 year old subway system is one of the densest in the world.
However, there is an issue with connectivity between the city suburbs that means passengers have to travel into the centre and back out again to get to a neighbouring district using the Metro. The Grand Paris Express (GPE) is designed to solve that problem and increase capacity on a network used by more than 1.5bn passengers a year.
The GPE, led by French government agency Société du Grand Paris (SGP), is overtaking Crossrail as the largest transport infrastructure project in Europe. With 200km of lines and 68 new stations it will double the size of the French capital’s existing subway system. It is estimated that the commercial speed of the automated trains will be 60km/h, with maximum speeds of more than 100km/h, and a scheduled frequency of one train every two to three minutes.
It will enable passengers to travel around the Île-de-France – the greater Paris metropolitan area – without going through the centre, alleviating pressures on the roads and main line rail routes in the suburbs, but also let them reach their destinations faster and more easily.
It is also thought to be the first infrastructure project of this scale intending to use building information modelling (BIM) from start to finish. While Crossrail in the UK made great strides to be fully BIM compliant mid-project, much of the concept and early design and buildability work was done before UK government mandated the use of BIM, or indeed before industry began to view it as a crucial tool for infrastructure delivery.
A huge 3D model has been created using information from all the firms involved. Firms working on the project explained the role of BIM to delegates at Autodesk’s Rail Summit in Paris.
The purpose of these BIM processes is to increase the confidence of the various business specialists in the information provided
Systems contractor Egis was awarded the BIM d’Or award by French construction magazine Le Moniteur this year for its work on the scheme’s Line 16, a key strategic route which will link Saint-Denis Pleyel, a deprived area on the northern edge of the city where the site for the 2024 Olympics will be centred, and Noisy-Champs to the west. Last month Paris officially won its bid to host the 2024 Olympics, bolstering plans for the transformation of the area.
Information management challenge
Egis BIM manager Vincent Keller says one of the key challenges in constructing the route, which is 29km long and will have nine stations, will involve managing large volumes of information and delivering the scheme in time for the unmoving deadlines associated with the Olympics.
Using BIM allowed Egis to merge the design of the stations, ancillary works and tunnels on line 16 and collaborate easily with partners by showing it the digital 3D model. They said the “purpose of these BIM processes is to increase the confidence of the various business specialists in the information provided to enable them to complete its design.”
Keller says: “Building a new metro line is a great challenge, especially when there is an urban environment to deal with at the same time, many things will change, so the first thing to do is to manage the huge quantities of information during all the phases of the projects.
“The second challenge is to optimise the design of infrastructure and for the transport system. That’s why extending BIM and putting our infrastructure onto system facilities is clearly a way to improve and control processes.
“The other challenge is to build the line in time to be ready for the Olympic Games. We have to resolve difficulties and process interfaces with multiple disciplines.”
The BIM model and the data gathered will be useful in the construction phase, Keller adds, but it can also be used for operation and management when the project is complete.
Four new lines will be created and existing lines 11 and 14 will be extended and connect the new network to the metro. As well as connecting the residential areas, the GPE will serve the city’s two airports, Orly and Charles-de-Gaulle, and the business district La Défense. The routes will be opened in stages and the whole project is expected to be complete by 2030.
BIM allows us to see the project through the driver’s eyes so signals are never obstructed by construction work
Sylvie Cassan, Systra
SNCF, France’s national rail company, is transforming the suburban Saint-Cloud station to connect to the Grand Paris metro station in its first ever BIM project. SNCF’s deputy director of the Paris area’s studies department Valerie Bourgoin told the conference that SNCF plans to use BIM in projects in future as it “allows us to save time and respond to change”.
Engineering firm Systra is another key player in the scheme and is responsible for providing technical assistance for systems for the whole of the Grand Paris Red Line, including systems integration, performance and coherences, supervising project management of rolling stock and automatic train operations.
After deciding to implement BIM for the first time in 2012, all of Systra’s stations, structures and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems have been designed with BIM.
Systra France’s head of BIM deployment and development Sylvie Cassan, says her company discovered the benefits of using 3D modelling, which included “optimisation of underground stations, visualisation of each station, the better understanding of the project”.
She added: “It allows us to see the project through the train driver’s eyes, so signals are never obstructed by construction work…it makes the work easier and allows us to embrace the infrastructure project.”