MARCH 15 will see the official inauguration by RFF of the first 300 km of TGV Est between Paris and Baudrecourt. Three months ahead of SNCF’s planned opening to traffic on June 10, the date leaves a slot for more ultra-high-speed trials (above). That the French government backs high speed research - doubtless with an eye to export prospects - has long been evident (RG 1.07 p17). Its support looks even firmer after a string of announcements by Transport Minister Dominique Perben indicating that the TGV network will continue to grow. On January 24 he confirmed that k94m would be spent on preparations for the second stage of TGV Est over the 106 km from Baudrecourt to Strasbourg - the government had already promised that work would start by 2010. The next day saw Perben ink an agreement with the regions of Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees setting out financing plans for the Tours - Bordeaux segment of TGV Sud Europe Atlantique these commit the public sector to fund 50% of the k5bn cost, with private enterprise finding the rest. Bids for the concession were to be invited in February. On January 30 Perben confirmed that TGV Atlantique would be extended from Connerr? to Rennes, the aim being to open the k2?4bn line in 2012-13. He trumped that on February 6 with news that k3?65bn will be spent on upgrading access routes to the planned Lyon - Torino base tunnel. And while he may be accused of empire building, Perben’s February 5 proposal for a Ministry of Sustainable Development implies that his government really sees a link between greater use of rail transport and policies to mitigate climate change. n