Line 12 of the Paris Metro

M12 Paris

Greetings everyone! As promised, I will be discussing Line 12 of the Paris Metro in this post. Line 12 is one of several vital north-south subway routes that traverse the wonderful city of Paris.

Line 12 starts in the southwestern suburbs of Issy, traveling northeastward through the neighborhood of St. Lambert, and making a brief southeast curve towards the rail station of Gare Montparnasse. After servicing Gare Montparnasse, the line curves northwestward along Boulevard Raspail towards the Seine.  Before arriving at the Seine, Line 12 takes a curve towards the north, where it eventually reaches Gare St. Lazare (another major rail station of Paris). Between Gare St. Lazare and Abbesses stations, the line twists and turns several times, making the journey rather unpleasant at times (however, most commuters don’t seem to notice). Beyond Abbesses station are the northern suburbs of Clignancourt and La Chapelle, by which the station of Porte de la Chapelle served as the line’s northern terminus for nearly a century. A new northern terminus at the southern fringe of Aubervilliers opened on December 18, 2012.

Method of construction:

Some of you will probably be able to tell just by the description in the last paragraph that Line 12 is a very curvy line. In fact, there are only a handful of straight segments along the route, since construction of the line was done using the “cut and cover” method, by which the street is dug out to make way for the subway tunnel, and then covered over when the tunnel is complete. This method is used frequently with subway construction and is a money saver over methods that have the subway tunnels built at a much lower depth. However, this method often leaves subway lines to be quite close to the surface and isn’t practical in environments where you have a lot of buildings in the area [1].

To see just how curvy Line 12 is, I’ve created a Google Map that depicts where the route travels.

A brief history:

Line 12 opened in 1910 as the Line A of the Nord-Sud Company, which was a private subway company. The Nord-Sud at the time was competing with the CMP (which stands for Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris), which was another private subway company. As the name would imply, the Nord-Sud had constructed subway lines that ran on a north-south axis, rather than the east-west axis of the various CMP lines. However, Nord-Sud only constructed two lines, with a third still under construction when the company was absorbed by the CMP during the 1930s. In 1948, the CMP in-turn, was absorbed by the the state-operated organization that is now known as the RATP (which stands for Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens).

The three Nord-Sud lines were originally known as Lines A, B, and C, while the CMP utilized a numbering convention for their lines. The first segment of Line A opened in 1910 between Porte de Versailles and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. The line was then gradually extended northward to Jules Joffrin and southward to Mairie d’Issy. In 1916, the northern terminus at Porte de la Chapelle had opened. From that point until 2012, the configuration of Line A remained relatively unchanged. When Nord-Sud was absorbed by the CMP in the 1930s, the lines were re-numbered as 12, 13, and 14. Line 14 was eventually immersed into the current Line 13, when a tunnel underneath the Seine was constructed to link the two lines together [2].


Unlike many of the CMP-built lines, the Nord-Sud built lines are distinguished by their vaulted station ceilings and markings over the tunnel entrances that signal the direction of the terminus. These markings would read “Direction Montparnasse” to the south and “Direction Montmartre” to the north. Wall tiling was also very eloquent and distinct compared to some of the other subway lines. Originally, trains along Line 12 were powered by overhead wires instead of a third rail, like they are today [3].

Another highlight of Line 12 is the curved stairwell of station Abbesses and its colorful mural. At station Concorde, one can read the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which is spelled out along the tiled walls of the Line 12 platforms.

Northern Extension:

As I mentioned earlier; between 1916 and 2012, the configuration of Line 12 remained relatively unchanged. Plans to extend the line northward to Aubervillers and eventually towards La Courneuve surfaced during the 2000s. This project was separated into phases; with the first phase to Front Populaire to be built first. This phase began in 2008 and was completed in December of 2012. The press, RATP staff, and government officials were invited to the station on December 17, 2012 for the formal opening ceremonies. However, the public opening was not until a day later on December 18.

The second phase of the northern extension will take Line 12 to stations Aimé Césaire – Pont de Stains and Mairie d’Aubervilliers, going through the heart of the municipality of Aubervilliers. This phase is scheduled for completion in around 2017. A third and final phase will bring the line to La Courneuve, with stations at La Courneuve – Aubervilliers and La Courneuve – 6 Routes. The third phase will allow connections to the RER Commuter Rail Line B and Light Rail (Tramway) Line 1, and will allow for two subway lines to traverse through the municipalities of Aubervillers and La Courneuve (the other line is Line 7, which passes through these municipalities along the southern and eastern sides) [4][5].

A very spacious and modern station – Front Populaire:

Station Front Populaire is the 302nd station of the Paris Metro system. It is also the very first modernized subway station along the line. Again, no other segments have been built for Line 12 since 1916, so all of the other stations comprise of architecture that is reminiscent of the Metro of the 1910s.

Originally called station Proudhon – Gardinoux (to represent the intersection of Rue Proudhon and Rue des Gardinoux); station Front Populaire represents a marvelous yet comfortable environment. The color scheme used throughout the station comprise of mostly white, gray, brown, and green tones. A huge skylight allows for as much natural lighting as possible to reduce energy consumption. The station is also equipped with air conditioning to keep temperatures elevated at comfortable levels. The configuration of Front Populaire is very much in line with many modern Metro stations, in the sense that the station relies more on unified stairs and escalators to descend from ground level to subway level, rather than a maze of convoluted corridors that older stations possess. Elevators are also available to those who wish to use them, as well as those who would otherwise be unable to use the stairs or escalators [4][5].

As I was planning out this wonderful post; the Sound Landscapes Blog was already publishing their blog post regarding the new Front Populaire station. I invite you to check out the sounds of the MF 67 stock train as it wooshes through the new tracks of the extension. Compare that sound to the sound of the trains as they make their arrival at the southern terminus at Issy. You’ll notice the difference rather quickly.


Once again, I’ve made a listing of formal citations of websites/blogs by which I’ve pulled information from to make this blog posting possible. I really don’t like to use Wikipedia as a “source” because of reliability (or lack thereof). However, the article that Wikipedia has on Line 12 is probably the most detailed out of all of the articles that discuss each of the Paris Metro lines. Plus, some of the references used in the Wikipedia article were pulled from books by which I have no access to.

All citations listed below are formatted in the MLA format via Citation Machine. I’ve also numbered each source listing to represent the in-line citation within the blog post itself.

[1]  “Buliding Big – The Tunnel Challenge – Cut and Cover Technique.” Building Big. Public Broadcasting Service, n.d. Web. 11 Feb 2013. <;.

[2] “Paris Métro Line 12.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 22 Jan 2013. Web. 11 Feb 2013. <étro_Line_12&gt;.

[3]  “Les lignes du métro Parisien.” Symbioz. Symbioz Corp, 19 Oct 2012. Web. 11 Feb 2013. <;

[4]  “”Front Populaire”, un nouvel horizon pour la ligne 12.” le département Paris numérique de la Direction de l’information et de la communication (DICOM), 174 Dec 2012. Web. 11 Feb 2013. <;.

[5] “Métro Line 12 Extended to Front Populaire.”Soundlandscapes’ Blog. N.p., 26 Jan 2013. Web. Web. 11 Feb. 2013. <;.

Published by hartride2012tampa

Blogging about public transportation in Florida & beyond.

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