ON August 30 Alstom Transport signed an agreement with the town of La Rochelle, the région of Poitou-Charentes and the Conseil Général of Charente-Maritime to build an experimental light rail line in the streets of the Atlantic port.

The 1·6 km line will run from the Alstom plant at Aytré (p630) to the Rondpoint de l’Europe in Les Minimes. Alstom has been given permission to use the route to develop new technologies aimed at reducing the capital and operating costs of tramways. This will include track and overhead line equipment, substations and vehicles; the line may be used both for experimental cars and for commissioning production vehicles.

The agreement will initially run for 54 months, giving Alstom 18 months to build the line and 36 months for trial operations. Total cost of the project is estimated at Fr35m, of which the local authorities will contribute Fr12m.