THE FINAL hurdle for construction of a light rail network in the French city of Valenciennes was cleared at the beginning of August, when the Préfet of Nord- Pas-de-Calais signed the formal declaration of public utility, nine years after the project was first floated. Local transport authority Siturv expects to start construction in May 2002, and have the first line in service by the spring of 2004.

The Fr1·3bn first phase covers two routes totalling 9·2 km. Line A will run from Dutemple to Université de Mont Houry via Anzin and the city centre. Line B will share tracks from Anzin to Valenciennes and then turn north to Poterne Les Tertiales. The French government is expected to contribute Fr25m per km, and further capital grants are expected to increase the external support to around 23%. The local versement de transport will be raised from 1% to 1·75% to cover operating costs.

Two extensions are already envisaged. One would continue Line A southwest for 8·5 km from Dutemple to Denain along the alignment of a former industrial railway. The other would see Line B extended 3·7 km northeast to Saint-Saulve. These would cost a further Fr500m. Alstom and Bombardier are to supply 17 Citadis low-floor cars.