FRANCE: On July 29 Minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development & Planning Jean-Louis Borloo signed an agreement establishing the funding mechanism and provisional construction timetable for a 132 km extension of the TGV Atlantique high speed line from Le Mans to Rennes.

Costed at €3·4bn, the project also involves the construction of 32 km of connections to the conventional network, including a branch to Sablé-sur-Sarthe on the Le Mans - Angers line that should cut the fastest journey time between Paris and Nantes to 1 h 52 min.

Funding for the new line, known as the LGV Bretagne - Pays de la Loire, has been agreed on a 'partnership' basis, with RFF providing the largest share of €1·02bn. The contribution from central government is €990m, with an equal amount to be provided by local authorities. Of this €990m, the Bretagne region and other bodies are providing €896m, with the Pays de la Loire region making its largest-ever rail investment of €94m.

As of July 29, 90% of the land required to build the new line had been acquired. Tendering of construction contracts is expected to begin later this year. Completion of the project in 2014 should see the Paris - Rennes journey time cut to 1 h 27 min, a saving of 37 min, enabling two additional return workings to be introduced between Brest and the French capital.

Passenger traffic between the region and Paris is expected to grow by 10%, giving LGV BPL a return of 8·8% in terms of social and economic benefits compared to the minimum of 4% required for such projects.