LYON-BASED consultant Semaly has won a contract to study and design an inter-urban ’tram-train’ project on the French island département of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean.

Leader of a consortium with Scetauroute, Thales and Dubus Richez, Semaly is already working on preliminary studies and expects to complete an assessment of the alignment with possible variants later this year. This will allow La Réunion Region to make a final choice before detailed design starts in January 2005.

The proposal envisages a 70 km route along the north coast of the island between Saint Paul and Saint Benoît. The line is seen as the backbone of the territory’s future public transport network, offering the 720000 islanders an alternative to private cars on congested roads.

The line will have to pass through difficult terrain with deep ravines; the most challenging civil engineering task will be to bore a 10 km tunnel through volcanic rock. Equipment will need to be designed to operate in a marine environment with extreme weather conditions that include cyclones.