Guinness World Records Attempt: Paris Subway Challenge

On July 20th, 2004, I made a Guinness World Records attempt to travel all the 369 subway stations then open in Paris, mirroring the recent efforts of Geoff Marshall, of the UK, who also made an attempt to travel all the subway station in London, in the least time possible. The following is a log I maintained throughout the trip.

A map of the Paris subway system

14 hours 54 minutes and 18 seconds to travel 369 stations! I could definitely trim that down because of the number 6 line, and a few tweaks that I could perfect. It was quite physically demanding, but worth the challenge nonetheless. Well here are the highlights of the day:

05:30:12 : Number 2 line departs Porte Dauphine station with me on it, as well as a big bottle of water, several sandwhiches and a book. (With my log book always in hand)

05:52:46 : The number 6 line stops at Raspail, so I get off, transfer to the number 4 line, then onto a bus, and waste in the process about 10 minutes, but everything else is smooth.

06:32:36 : I lose my pencap on the platform but am too hurried to get it.

07:46:51 : At La Courneuve terminal (number 7 line) I find out that you have to get out and then get back in (hence paying for another ticket) to get to the opposite line. Miss train in the process.

08:03:06 : I'm on the 7bis line, my first ride on the line, and the train reminds me of the 1980s or a Star Trek scene with the pink and grey seats and the sharpish edges. Clearly the train is made to look modern, but isn't. My first encouter with a beggar.

09:06:15 : "For time adjustment reasons we will be waiting at this station for a bit more" at Richard Lenoir (line 5). Happens once again at Bastille and Gare d'Austerlitz

09:15:05 : First encouter with accordionist. He seems very bored doing it.

09:28:58 : Arrive at Bercy to ride the number 14 line. The line is ultra modern because it hasn't a driver, and all the stations are announced by an automatic system. The platform is equipped with a set of doors that open along with the doors on the train, as a measure of security, I guess. It's formidable in its noise output, though.

11:27:50 : Had to beat a crowd at the Nation station (and I got a bit lost, which always isn't good), so I missed the 9 line train by mere seconds.

12:35:45 : At Pont de Sevres (terminal) I find out that I have to get out and back in again, so instead of buying another ticket I decide to jump the turnstiles. I end up looking like a austrich trying to fly, but manage notheless.

14:01:15 : At Porte d'Orleans I find out the same thing again, and I have to line up at the ticket booth for 8 minutes until the (fill in with adjective) RATP lady stops talking to the people who try to cut the line. By this time I'm fuming, but somehow I get the tickets and hop on the line back 11 minutes later.

14:42:55 : I run like a madman at Montparnasse Bienvenue. Theres four floor-escalators that everyone rides to get past a distance of about 200 meters, but I race past them to get the 13 line, which I do with barely few seconds to spare. I get up a set of stairs, run 200 meters, down another set of stairs, up again, up again, and up again, and hop on the train, all within a minute and 22 seconds! (I'm sweating waterfalls on the train I can hardly see)

15:39:49 : A report of a sick passenger forces everyone off the 8 train to wait for the next one at Concorde. I give up waiting after a minute to alter my plans to take the 12 line up to Madeleine (where I was supposed to get off had the 8 train continued normally.. the next station!) and back down again. I leave Concorde 8 minutes late.

16:33:32 : As un-luck would have it, Porte de Clignancourt is also a station that forces you to get out to take the opposite line. I realise the virtues of buying a one day pass. =)

16:37:37 : Miss the 12 line by seconds. I guess tensions are running a bit here, as I make it clear to everyone on the platform of my dissatisfaction. hehe.

17:02:03 : Saint Lazare- I decide to alter plans again to take the 13 line to Gabriel Peri instead of Saint-Denis Universite, because the train arrived first.

17:17:19 : At Gabriet Peri I hurry up a crowded escalator and back down again on the other side of the station. The doors are about to close, so I practically run down the stairs, but almost slip towards the bottom, momentarily scaring the other people on the stairs. My shoe loses 3 mm of rubber sole, as I'm almost sliding down the stairs. I get on the train, much to my happiness.

18:04:58 : I almost take the 3 line to the wrong direction at Saint Lazare. I get lost at the station and find out that
the right line is on the second floor. Apparently the people at RATP don't take into consideration the fact that people might want to get off line 3 in one direction, then want to get on the same line to the opposite direction. My notebook page for that station is emblazoned with SECOND FLOOR is large angry letters, as I miss the train by sheer stupidity.

19:43:28 : Ledru Rollin- Sick passenger at Strasbourg Saint Denis (which is way back in terms of station stops) upsets entire train timetable schedule and where normally a stop at a station is about 20 seconds, it takes 3 minutes to for the train to leave station.

20:04:42 : Happy hearted Chinaman starts singing to himself some Chinese song. Peculiar.

20:06:46 : Now this is the worst part. The train stops at Maisons Alfort Les Juillots because it only goes so far, and the driver says to wait for the next train, which will bring me to my last stop. It doesn't come for another 12 minutes. Meanwhile an argument breaks out on the station platform, something to do with the stationmaster, racism, and psychiatrists. Most hilarious is that everyone waiting on the platform (100 or so people) is watching the scene.
20:24:30 : I arrive at Creteil Prefecture!

Surprisingly two people actually did inquire about my peculiar behaviour (including taking note of the arrival and departure times of each and every station, as well as getting off at a terminal and getting on the same train back). Perhaps a never-to-be-acknowledged-shoutout would do some good to them:

To the two American fellas with four bulging suitcases going to Italy, hello. And no, this isn't a college project.

To the girl/lady at Creteil Prefecture (who coincidentally looks so much like someone at my school, and no, Mackie, not Gigja), who noticed I was taking the same line back, hello and nice to meet you. I did tell her about the whole trip thing, and while there was space for more conversation I was too grimy to even consider it.

A few adages I came up with during the moments on the trip that I wasn't writing anything in my log book:

"Never has arriving at a platform when a train has just reached it brought more joy, never has arriving when a train has just left it brought such angst"
"Whenever someone has a newspaper to read there's always someone trying to read over their shoulders" (particularly applicable on crowded trains)

I send along my information to Guinness World Records the very next day, only to get the following response shortly thereafter:

Dear Mr Akasaka

Thank you for sending us the details of your recent record proposal for 'The quickest travel time for all Metro stations'. We are  afraid to say that we are unable to accept this as a Guinness World Record.Unfortunately it is simply not physically possible for us to list separate records for travelling every metro railway system in the world, since there are literally hundreds. For this reason we are only able to consider such records for London and New York, which are the world's largest metro rail networks. We appreciate that this may be disappointing to you. We are always keen to hear from people who wish to set a Guinness World Record.  If you should need any advice regarding record breaking in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us, quoting the above membership number. Once again thank you for your interest in Guinness World Records.

Yours sincerely, Marco Frigatti
Records Research Services

How stupid. If the world were to consist of Frigatti's I bet we'd all be very disappointed. Never to be outdone, I quickly sent the follwing reply:

Hello Mr. Frigatti

I thank you for your relatively rapid reply to my claim. I understand how your policy is in terms of getting the most remarkable and interesting claims, as there are 'literally hundreds' of similar possiblities it would be impossible to verify and publish all of them. However I do want to point out that the Paris Metro network is truly extensive, second only to that of the New York subway in number, with 368 stations. London, on the other hand, has far fewer stations, with 270. Just because the challenge of visiting all the subway stations may not take as long to complete as in London or New York does not necessarily mean it would be easier or by any means less significant to do so. Indeed this challenge is not a question of how significant the Metro network is, but rather the challege of being able to visit all the stations in the least amount of time. Wouldn't more stations qualify it as apt for such a challenge?

It is claimed that 'we are only able to consider such records for London and New York, which are the world's largest metro rail networks'. Please note that this is only in length, and not in number of stations, nor in many other aspects that are largely ignored.

I strongly urge a serious reconsideration of such a claim, for it would do injustice to the Paris subway system, which clearly deserves to be among the 'world's largest metro rail networks'.

Consider that:
The Paris Metro carried an average of 1.2 billion passengers in 2003, largely surpassing the 886 million carried by the London Tube, not distant from the 1.3 billion carried by New York subway;
Paris opened its first functional Metro train service on July 19, 1900, while New York did so only on October 27, 1904;
Paris, as iterated earlier, is only second to New York in terms of the largest amount of stations in its underground network.

Yours truly, Rio Akasaka