ANNOUNCING THE results of a joint study on December 4, French Transport Minister Dominique Perben and Minister for Environment & Sustainable Development Nelly Olin backed rail and maritime development in the Rh?ne valley and the ’Langeudoc arc’, rejecting plans to expand the A7 and A9 motorways.The ministers expect to launch work on the N?mes - Montpellier mixed-traffic bypass line in 2008, and start public consultation for the Montpellier - Perpignan high speed line in the same year. Detailed preparations for the Lyon - Torino corridor are to be stepped up with a view to starting construction by 2010.Studies for a freight bypass line around the eastern side of Lyon are also to be accelerated, and plans are being drawn up for a new Dr?me station on TGV M?diterran?e near Allan.The ministers welcomed the Perpignan - Bettembourg intermodal service, which is due to begin running this spring (RG 11.06 p724). Concessionaire Lorry Rail announced on November 24 that it had signed a contract with SNCF to provide haulage of the daily trains. Lorry Rail has ordered 45 twin-platform Modalohr NA articulated wagons, and has started marketing the service with a base rate of k900 per trailer for the 1 000?km trip.With construction of the Bettembourg terminal nearing completion, Lorry Rail expected to start test running during December. It also reported that the Le Boulou terminal near Perpignan was well advanced, with the Modalohr loading equipment to be installed shortly.