MEDITERRANEAN. With the need for sustainability, rail is back as a force in the Mediterranean. In 2012, funding for projects on high speed rail, subway and trams has kept on coming. In ten years, the European Investment Bank has dedicated a budget of €23.7bn in the EU with €4bn in France. But these activities go well beyond the EU. Over the past twelve months, commitment to rail transport projects in the countries bordering the Mediterranean has passed the €1bn mark.
In December 2012 the French region of Lorraine launched the second phase of its LGV East project that will make Paris 1 hour and 50 minutes away from Strasbourg, thus cutting the journey time by 30 minutes. This 106km high speed section (in Moselle and Bas-Rhin) forms part of the larger LGV Est européenne project (406 km between Paris and Vendenheim in the Bas-Rhin). Since 10 June 2007, the first phase has already developed the use of 300 km of new lines.
Three months before the launch of the second phase, on the other side of France, LGV Bretagne Pays de la Loire - an extension of the western branch of the LGV Sud-Europe Atlantique - received its first funding. Connecting Le Mans to Rennes, and with a length of 182 km with an additional existing connecting section of 32 km, LGV Bretagne Pays de la Loire will begin service in May 2017 (delivery in September 2016).
Trams appeal to Mediterraneans
Subway projects are also continuing, such as the extension of 17.7 km of line 3 in Cairo. The Egyptian capital’s network has received a €600m loan for a 25 year period (at a total cost of €940m) granted by the EIB (€200m million agreed on 14 November 2012) and the AFD (French Development Agency).
Other subways are seeking to expand their rail networks such as that of Athens which is extending its Line 3 to the district of Piraeus and that of Rome, which will gain 1.1km in length on its line B and acquire 15 new trains.
Trams, though, remain the most popular type of rail transport. This silent and non-polluting mode of transport is attracting more and more Mediterraneans. Morocco (inaugurated in Rabat in 2011 and Casablanca in 2012), Algeria (the Algiers network expansion, the opening in 2013 of the first networks in Oran and Constantine, and projects in Sidi Bel Abbes, Mostaganem, Ouargla, Sétif, Annaba Batna) and Tunisia (new trains delivered to Tunis in 2012 ) are making trams a public transport priority.
France is also following this movement. Tours, Le Havre and Besançon are building their first tram networks; Orleans will build a second line and Montpellier will launch its fifth, sixth and seventh. This is on top of the €447m invested by Ile de France for new lines with the aid of the EIB.