CONSTRUCTION work is expected to get underway in May on the first section of TGV Rhine-Rhône, after the final element in the complex financing package was put in place on February 8.

French Transport Minister Dominique Perben welcomed the agreement, which followed his meeting on January 31 with regional presidents Adrien Zeller of Alsace, Raymond Forni of Franche-Comté, François Patriat of Bourgogne and Jean-Jacques Queyranne of Rhône-Alpes.

The transport infrastructure fund AFITF is providing €785m towards the €2·5bn project, and RFF has agreed to raise its stake from €502m to €642m. Alsace, Bourgogne and Franche-Comté had already committed to providing €620m. A further €200m will come from the EU and €66m from the Swiss government's external rail links support programme. Rhône-Alpes has now agreed to provide the final €66m, in exchange for a commitment to build a TGV maintenance depot in Lyon creating 300 new jobs. On top of the infrastructure cost, SNCF is expected to invest €850m in rolling stock to work the route.

The first section of the 425 km Y-shaped line will be the eastern leg linking Dijon and Mulhouse, which is intended to cut the Paris - Mulhouse journey time from 3h 10min to 2h 30min. This will be followed by the western link from Dijon to meet the Paris Sud-Est line at Aisy and a southern branch from Dijon to Lyon via Bourg-en-Bresse, intended to improve links between northeast and southeast France.

  • Dominique Perben has approved plans for the 182 km TGV Bretagne - Pays de la Loire extension from Le Mans to Rennes. A public enquiry is to be held in June as part of the Declaration of Public Utility process.