VINTAGE debates have a habit of outlasting the politicians in the French wine capital Bordeaux. The one about a tram network has been going on since 1981, and it could run for a while yet. Earlier battles were about the choice between a steel-wheeled tramway and a rubber-tyred VAL mini-metro, with the VAL plans finally scrapped in 1995. A vote by the Communauté Urbaine in favour of building a light rail network was secured in February last year , but not much progress was made until this summer.

Light rail has apparently been on the Communauté Urbaine's agenda 35 times since 1995, and at the end of July councillors were expecting to discuss the merits of building a bridge over the Garonne or a tunnel under it. But Mayor Alain Juppé had other ideas. In a notable coup for the tram project, he succeeded in getting a vote passed requiring the Préfet to launch an enquiry leading to a Declaration of Public Utility.

The Fr3·8bn project is less ambitious than previously, with an initial phase costing Fr2·2bn expected to open in 2002. This would be followed by a second stage in 2006.