INTRO: Rail forms an important part of the French government’s infrastructure programme for the next 20 years. Projects to be taken forward include eight high speed schemes, and a new agency is to be created to fund infrastructure investment. Robert Preston reports

CHAIRING a meeting of the inter-ministerial planning and development committee (CIADT) in Paris on December 18 last year, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin confirmed his government’s support for 50 major infrastructure projects. These are intended to help revive the national economy, create employment and maintain France’s competitive position within Europe. Expected to be completed by 2025, they include eight high speed line projects, the upgrading of three conventional main lines from Paris and the development of five freight corridors (map p82).

With the aim of starting work on the eastern branch of TGV Rhin-Rh