MARCH 31 2007 has been set as the launch date for a rolling motorway service running for more than 1000 km across France, Transport Minister Dominique Perben announced on December 12.

He said the autoroute ferroviaire would link Perpignan, close to the Spanish frontier, with Bettembourg in Luxembourg. With an initial capacity of 30000 lorry trailers a year, the service could be stepped up to carry twice as many lorries if demand warranted. Studies are already in hand for possible extensions to serve the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, the Alps and Marseille, while another route to be studied would link Hendaye with Tours. Trains would run overnight with up to 40 trailers on 20 twin-section wagons.

RFF will spend €15m on loading gauge works to accept lorries on low-floor Modalohr wagons, as used on the 175 km Fréjus corridor between Aiton-Bourganeuf in France and Orbassano in Italy. Due to be completed by the end of 2006, the work will be funded by Agence de Financement des Infrastructures de Transport en France. Other parties to the agreement include SNCF, Luxembourg Railways, Caisse des Dép