ON MAY 17, French Transport Minister Gilles de Robien announced the award of a Declaration of Public Utility for construction of a rail bypass around Nîmes and Montpellier.

Initially designed as part of TGV Méditerranée, the 70 km line is now to be built as a mixed-traffic route, helping to keep freight trains out of the two conurbations. This is similar to the Tours bypass on TGV Atlantique.

The government has already set up a commission under Christian de Fenoyl to look at options for financing the line. The state’s contribution to the project is expected to come from the new transport infrastructure financing fund AFITF.

  • At the end of April Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin announced the formation of an independent rail safety agency, in line with EU directives which will be transposed into national legislation later this year. Expected to become operational in spring 2006, ANSF will be based in Amiens. It will have around 100 staff, mostly transferred from SNCF, RFF and the transport ministry. n