Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

The CCI estimates that the loop linking Marseille to Aix-en-Provence can be operational in 2030

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, January 19th 2021 à 17:14 | Read 167 times

The Loop is planning 15 stations in the first phase (map: Loop Aix Marseille)
The Loop is planning 15 stations in the first phase (map: Loop Aix Marseille)
FRANCE. "Either we wait eighty-eight years as we did with the L2 (Editor's note: Marseille bypass), or we use private financing! "During the press greetings on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, Jean-Luc Chauvin expressed his strong support for the loop project led by Guillaume Nicoulaud (CEO), Mathieu Morateur (Chief Operating Officer -COO) and Michele Mocci (Chief Technology Officer - CTO). The President of the Aix Marseille Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIAMP) did not hesitate to announce that the first section of this revolutionary "RER" with exclusive right-of-way linking the cities of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille would be operational by 2030.

The Loop Aix-Marseille is a 120 km long underground network project with double tunnels of small diameter (between 4 and 5 metres) with no ground infrastructure, in which high-speed (between 120 and 140 km/h) autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) run. Each EAV will be able to carry twenty-five passengers, with passage frequencies of up to fifteen seconds. The journey between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence would take fifteen minutes, compared with forty-five minutes today on the RER, and the time remains highly fluctuating by car or coach, depending on traffic jams.

Jean-Luc Chauvin intends "to bring the idea into an operational phase, by having a calendar, as we do in companies. We need to move from announcements to reality".


Financing from private funds

The Loop would serve fifteen stations plus eight others as an option (see map above) and "will complete the metropolitan public transport offer by linking the urban networks together and providing access to TGV stations and the airport", as its promoters specify. Already united in a joint-stock company, they want to mobilise around their project.

Although the amount of financing remains unclear at this stage (a figure of €6.1 billion has been announced by the CEO), it is clear that only private funds will enable it to see the light of day. "This radically new concept, a highly risky activity, is not intended to be taken on by a public player in our view, whoever he may be", Mathieu Morateur tells
"An infrastructure project of this magnitude is of interest to all asset managers around the world: it will be a formidable catalyst for investment in the region. Then an incredible showcase for attractiveness", he continues.

Although he rules out any financial involvement by the CCIAMP, as with any other local authority, he would like "on the other hand to share the approach of the location studies specific to Aix-Marseille-Provence with the players in the area, public institutions as well as businesses and citizens. This is why we are in the process of creating a cooperative society of collective interest, which will give a voice to future users within the governance", he reveals.

The deadline of less than ten years announced by Jean-Luc Chauvin seems very ambitious. Not so much for the head of operational functions. According to Mathieu Morateur, "it is achievable on condition that it becomes a real territorial project. It could even be carried out more quickly if a substantial part of the network could take place on the surface rather than through tunnels. This is a determining factor in the investment cost of the project". This solution could halve the bill by more than half, he points out. "This makes it possible to consider alternatively a wider network or a shorter concession," he adds.

The loop will not be able to exist without launching a public consultation of the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, the only one entitled to give it a concession. And the CCIAMP says it is ready to encourage and accelerate this implementation. "If it doesn't happen here, it will happen elsewhere! "warns Jean-Luc Chauvin, according to whom the Loop could then be extended to 4,000 metropolises around the world.

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