AT LEAST €1535m is to be spent on improvements and modernisation of the rail network in Nord-Pas de Calais.

Projects include a €650m regional high speed line stretching for around 70 km between Lille, Valenciennes and Aulnoye, for which a pre-feasibility study is currently in hand. Other short sections of new line are also planned, together with reopenings, electrification, track doubling and upgrading.

Stretching over the next 20 years, the programme will transform the existing network and restore several links that were closed when rail enjoyed a less favoured ranking in transport policy. Significantly, the programme includes improvements to international services, including reinstatement of services over the coastal route between Dunkerque and the Belgian border.

The programme extends a long-standing policy of modernising rail services across the region which has seen TER traffic double since 1977, but in future rail looks set to enjoy higher levels of funding than in the past. Asked how the new projects will be financed, Jean-Paul Decourcelles, Advisor to the President of Nord-Pas de Calais on Transport & Infrastructure, suggests that money may be switched from road funding programmes. ’We have 550 km of motorway, and hundreds of millions of euros have been spent. Now the answer lies with rail - it is the spine of public transport across the region’.

Decourcelles considers that the long life of railway infrastructure should merit a different financial approach. ’It is built for several generations, so why should loans not be spread over 50 years, for example?’ He confirms that the region is discussing this with the European Investment Bank, adding that ’we are open to all propositions, including PPPs. There are fundamental choices to be made.’

Decourcelles says that infrastructure improvements will be accompanied by a €350m programme of investment in new rolling stock in 2006-15 - ’if rail is to compete with the car, it needs comfortable trains’. Convenient travel times are also in his sights - regular-interval timetables are envisaged on all services radiating from Lille, and an association grouping 15 public transport operators is being set up.

Freight too is set for expansion, with terminals for the autoroute ferroviaire planned at Dourges, Boulogne, Somain and Marquion. Rail access to the ports at Calais, Boulogne and Dunkerque is also to be improved. n

New lines proposed

1. Lille - Valenciennes - Aulnoye (k650m)

2. Orchies - Douai (k120m)

3. Arras - Cambrai (k150m)

4. Béthune - Bruay-la-Buissière

5. Southbound connection from TGV Nord to permit Lille - Arras service (k100m)

Launch of new services

6. Bailleul - Lille

7. Lille - Noyelles-Godault

Electrification and track doubling

8. Calais - Gravelines (k180m)

Track doubling

9. Béthune - Don Sainghin (k86m)

10. Douai - Cambrai (k114m)


11. Boulogne - Rangs-du-Fliers (k65m)

12. St-Pol-sur-Ternoise - Béthune (k22m)

Reopening or reinstatement of passenger services

13. Dunkerque - Adinkerque (Belgian frontier)

14. Hénin-Beaumont - Carvin - Beauvin

15. Valenciennes - Blanc - Misseron - Belgian frontier-Mons) (k45m)


16. Etaples - St-Pol-sur-Ternoise (k48m)

17. Aulnoye - Fourmies

18. Aulnoye - Maubeuge - Jeumont

Light rail

19. Douai - Aniche (proposed)

20. Valenciennes - Denain (under construction)

Improved international services

21. Dunkerque - Oostende

22. Lille - Tourcoing - Kortrijk

23. Valenciennes - Mons

24. Maubeuge - Mons

25. Maubeuge - Charleroi

New stations proposed