Culture

Metro line 13: a line, a history

Metro line 13 is special: it was created by merging two historic lines! The line’s history is marked by many ups and downs, changes and extensions. Here is its story.

Metro line 13 as we know it now was created in 1976. However, you can trace its history back a lot further. It was created by merging two existing metro lines and has been through many ups and downs. Here is an overview of its major milestones.

Metro line 13’s complex origin story

Metro line B operated by Compagnie Nord-Sud

Metro line 13’s story began with the commissioning of metro line B by Compagnie Nord-Sud on 26 February 1911, connecting Saint-Lazare to Porte de Saint-Ouen. Close to a year later, on 20 January 1912, a new section of the line was opened, connecting to Porte de Clichy.

The small 8-station line was already special: trains departing from La Fourche station would alternate serving the Porte de Saint-Ouen and Porte de Clichy sections. As incredible as it sounds, an employee positioned at the intersection would manoeuvre the switches manually to direct the trains to the correct track.

The building of metro line B (1907)

Metro line B wore that name for 20 years. It then became metro line 13 when Compagnie Nord-Sud was bought over by its competitor CMP (Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris) in 1931.

Plaques fitted on trains’ inside doors until 1940 (1941)

Metro line C, formerly known as metro line 14

Compagnie Nord-Sud considered creating a metro line C in the south of Paris to connect Montparnasse to Porte de Vanves. Although the project was qualified a public interest endeavour on 19 July 1012, construction works did not start until 1931, when CMP bought Compagnie Nord-Sud. 

Metro line C was finally built in the 1930s by the City of Paris and operated by CMP. The project was completed in 1936 and became metro line 14, connecting Montparnasse to Porte de Vanves.

Discover the story behind the Montparnasse–Bienvenüe station!

Metro line 14 was commissioned between Bienvenüe and Porte de Vanves stations (1937).

In 1937, the section connecting Invalides and Duroc, which was part of metro line 10 until then, was assigned to metro line 14. The line then connected Invalides to Porte de Vanves.

Metro lines 13 (Porte de Saint-Ouen/Porte de Clichy – Saint-Lazare) and 14 (Invalides-Porte de Vanves) thus faced each other for several decades. It was only in the mid-1970s that the two lines were merged into one long line that ran through the city. It was a time of many extensions that led to metro line 13 as we know it today.

The creation of the current metro line 13

First extension in 1952

In the 1940s, long before having one long transverse line was even considered, works to extend the Porte de Saint-Ouen section began. The extension was only commissioned on 30 June 1952, following 11 years of works that suffered many complications.

The 3-km extension comprised three new stations: Garibaldi, Mairie de Saint-Ouen and Carrefour Pleyel. Concurrently, several innovations came to life, such as the new MA (Matériel articulé, articulated rolling stock) trains and fluorescent lighting.

Metro line 13 extension works (1950)
An MA train at Saint-Lazare station (1955)

1976: Merging of metro lines 13 and 14

In 1965, it was decided that a new transverse metro line would be created to connect metro lines 13 and 14, with planned extensions to the north and south. The idea was presented by RATP (founded in 1949) Chief Executive Officer Pierre Weil to relieve metro line 12 by creating a parallel connection between Saint-Lazare and Montparnasse–Bienvenüe.

Map of merged metro lines 13 and 14, and extended metro line 13 (1975)

The new line was created in stages:

  • On 27 June 1973, metro line 13 was extended from Saint-Lazare to Miromesnil, with a connection to metro line 9;
  • On 18 February 1975, it was extended to Champs-Élysées–Clémenceau, with a connection to metro line 1;
  • On 20 May 1976, the northern section was extended to Basilique de Saint-Denis;
  • On 9 November 1976, the southern extension to Châtillon–Montrouge was commissioned;
  • On the same date, the new central section connecting Champs-Élysées–Clémenceau to Invalides was officially announced. What used to be metro lines 13 and 14 were now connected by a 433-metre tunnel, 129 metres of which run under the Seine river.

Thus, the new metro line 13 was born, connecting Basilique de Saint-Denis/Porte de Clichy to Châtillon–Montrouge.

The aerial section of metro line 13, with an MF67 train approaching Châtillon-Montrouge station (1978)

New extensions to the north

Metro line 13 did not stop there, as it was extended three more times to the north to connect the towns of Saint-Denis, Asnières sur-Seine and Gennevilliers to Paris:

  • On 9 May 1980, the Porte de Clichy section gained an additional 3.2 km, reaching Gabriel Péri station, located on the border of Asnières-sur-Seine and Gennevilliers;
  • On 25 May 1998, the Porte de Saint-Ouen section was extended to Saint-Denis–Université, its terminus to this day;
  • On 14 June 2008, the Porte de Clichy section was extended again to connect the line to the new Les Courtilles station, its terminus to this day. The last extension improved service to nearby towns and provided a new connection to tram line T1.

Metro line 13 as we know it now goes from Saint-Denis–Université/Les Courtilles to Châtillon–Montrouge and crosses Paris from north to south. It has 32 stations, and connects with 6 tram lines, 10 metro lines and 2 RER lines. It is one of the busiest metro lines on the Paris transport network.

Key Figure

23,290
km
Metro line 13’s total length.

Automation of metro line 13

The automation of metro line 13 was voted on 7 December 2022 by Île-de-France Mobilités’ board of directors. The operation is planned in two stages: the commissioning of new MF19 trains in 2025 and full automation in 2031. To be continued!

Visit the page dedicated to MF19 trains, the new generation of metro trains, for more information.

The Compagnie Nord-Sud legacy

Metro line 13 features several architecture styles due to its complex history. Several metro stations have kept signature elements from Compagnie Nord-Sud, the transport company that originally operated metro line 13.

For instance, Saint-Lazare station features a beautiful rotunda with prestigious architecture at the crossroad between metro lines 12 and 13. 

Visit our page dedicated to the competition between CMP and Compagnie Nord-Sud for more information on the metro’s architectural heritage.

Liège station: a unique metro station

Metro line 13’s Liège station is special: it changed names and operated with shorter service hours until 2006. It also features 18 unique frescoes and offbeat architecture.

Visit our page dedicated to Liège station to find more information on this small station that witnessed history in the making.

Liège station (2012)
Patrimoine Ligne 13