A resolutely European rail project

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Lors de l’inauguration de la nouvelle ligne à grande vitesse Le Mans-Rennes, le 1er juillet, le Président Emmanuel Macron a déclaré qu'il souhaitait « que l'on parvienne dès le 1er semestre 2018 à une loi d'orientation des mobilités qui apportera enfin des réponses concrètes » : « Nous devons marquer une pause et réorienter nos priorités. L'Etat ne prendra plus de grands engagements, ne lancera plus de nouveaux grands chantiers tant que la loi d'orientation des mobilités ne sera pas adoptée. »

La France doit « à présent davantage concentrer ses efforts, ses investissements sur la rénovation des réseaux existants, sur la réduction de la fracture territoriale qui s'est aggravée ces dernières années : c'est l'horizon de ce quinquennat », a ajouté encore le président.

Discours encourageant pour la Via Atlantica qui efface justement cette fracture territoriale persistante du Massif Central et structure le projet territorial Bretagne-Pays basque-Lyon. C’est le projet qui bouleversera le plus les habitudes des Français, pour cela il doit figurer dans cette loi d’orientation des mobilités promise par le Président. En attendant cette loi, que soit lancée l’étude sur les menaces/opportunités et forces/faiblesses d’une transversale ferroviaire performante. Étude que tous les gouvernements jusqu’à aujourd’hui n’ont jamais voulu faire préférant le débat sur des projets uniquement tournés vers la capitale, plutôt que la réflexion sur un aménagement équilibré du territoire.

Le rail doit être un acteur incontournable de la transition énergétique et écologique.

Pour préparer le texte de cette loi, la question de la mobilité sera abordée lors de la Conférence nationale des territoires prévue le 17 juillet prochain, ainsi que lors d'Assises de la mobilité qui devraient se tenir en septembre.

Rédigé par Michel CANIAUX
Délégué Général d'

In an article in the “Le Populaire du Centre” Limoges newspaper of Sunday 26 March 2017*, which recounts the week’s indiscretions, it is a question of a news flash entitled “Poitiers Limoges: L’Arlésienne”, which evokes the positions taken by some of Poitou’s elected representatives during a conference organised by the New Aquitaine Region. They ask for the Limoges-Poitiers High-Speed Rail project to be continued. The article refers to Alain Claeys. who mentions that “Limousin participated in the financing of the Paris-Bordeaux line, whilst counting on there being a Poitiers-Limoges line in the future, let us not forget this” while Bruno Belin, Chair of the Departmental Council of Vienna, proposes to relaunch the north-west branch of the Via Atlantica, declaring that “we must also talk about Nantes-Poitiers-Limoges. We’ve been talking about it for years and nothing has come of it!

TGV in Poitiers station Will the Poitiers train station be the crossing point of the Via Atlantica as some elected representatives are currently defending it?

Reference: http://www.lepopulaire.fr/limoges/loisirs/art-litterature/2017/03/26/les-indiscretions-de-la-semaine-en-limousin-et-nouvelle-aquitaine_12338108.html

Written by Guillaume BERTRAND,
General Secretary of

The General Delegate, Michel Caniaux, participated in meetings of this public discussion to announce the priority of freight traffic: Atlantic coast - Dijon - Germany - Switzerland.

Project in three parts:

  • Electrification of the Nevers-Chagny line.
  • Creation of a regional stop for connection with the TGV high-speed trains.
  • Creation of a connection that enables the circulation of three return trips of the Rhine-Rhône TGV high-speed train.

This project does not involve the same functions as the Via Atlantica and it takes part in the interlinking of the territory for reviving the transport of freight by rail.

The European freight corridors

LNOPBL (Lignes nouvelles Ouest Bretagne Pays de la Loire) consultation.

The General Delegate, Michel Caniaux, participated in meetings organised in January in Brest, Nantes and Rennes to attract attention to the need to offer a certain number of regional services that actually improve the profitability performances of the rail lines. This could translate into four structuring axes to be put in place from now:

  • Brest - Quimper - Nantes - La Rochelle,
  • Brest - Rennes - Nantes - Angers,
  • Saint-Malo - Rennes - Redon - Savenay - Saint-Nazaire,
  • Quimper - Rennes,

which would get the LNOBPL services started.

This was an opportunity to remember that the LNOBPL project is an integral part of the Via Atlantica.

The international agreement on the Lyons-Turin line has been approved by the Italian Senate with 187 votes for and 43 against (Movimento 5 Stelle and Sinistra Italiana, and one vote from the Partito Democratico in power) and 4 abstentions. The law must be passed to the Chamber of Deputies on 19 December.

The approval of the Italian Parliament is one of the two conditions established by the European Union for its 40% participation in the internationally-based tunnel between Suse and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Of the 8.6 billion EUR cost of said tunnel, France will contribute EUR 2.2, Italy 3 and the EU 3.3. The tunnel alone will already reduce the route time by 45 minutes (22%).

To this should be added the access cost, which, on the French side (new Lyon-Chambéry and freight line) amounts to 7.2 billion and 1.7 billion on the Italian side. The second condition set by Brussels is that, by 2019, 2 billion EUR will be spent on the international part, the equivalent of 30/35 km tunnels in other words.

In France, the final vote of the French Parliament is expected for next 22 December.

The total cost of this 270 kilometre link between Lyon and Turin will therefore amount to 17.5 billion EUR, far from the 26 billion EUR or more that the opponents threaten.

For , the Lyons-Turin line should not be an impasse on an unfinished east-west European axis, but must achieve its full role in its natural vocation to reach the Atlantic coast, a necessary condition for the realisation of the Via Atlantica

The European Commission has understood that Europe will be built through the exchanges and encounters between Europeans.

Free travel throughout Europe may be possible in the near future. To revive pro-European feeling, the European Commission wants to study the idea of offering all young 18-year-olds in Europe an Interrail pass, a train ticket that would allow them to travel throughout Europe for one month.

The Commission strongly supports the idea that this matter must be examined,” said the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, before MEPs met together in Strasbourg. “Because it refocuses attention on youth and facilitates the citizens’ mobility with a low greenhouse gas emission,” she was pleased to say. “There will be challenges to overcome. The Commission is going to conduct a study of the costs and financing, and we will see if it can be extended to everyone,” announced the Commissioner, who intends to speak with the rail operators concerned.

The annual cost would be 2 billion EUR.

300,000 people use Interrail passes each year and the cost of the ticket is EUR 479.

Europe is not only technocratic policy. We must also bring people closer together, we must again excite young people's enthusiasm about Europe", Manfred Weber propounded. “I am convinced that the 18th birthday Interrail pass for Europe could become a true lighthouse project for the development of a common European identity in diversity,” he stressed.

Potential customers for the Via Atlantica, and who show that rail is really a transport of the future!

Joining forces for the Via Atlantica

Thursday 16th June 2016, Michel Caniaux (Delegate General of) and Guillaume Bertrand (General Secretary) have been heard by Jean Mallot (Special advisor to Alain Vidalies - Secretary of State in charge of Transport, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs). The interview focused on the steps to be taken following cancellation of the high-speed line from Limoges to Poitiers by the Council of State of the Declaration of Public Utility.

The association came back to the Council of State's main argument in their judgement, which considers that the project for the high-speed line from Limoges to Poitiers constitutes "a simple bar joining Limoges to the high-speed rail network without any extension allowing for later developments".

The association reminded him that the judgement does not refer to the East-West bar project which had however been approved by the law on the Grenelle Environment project. This still features in the legal texts referring to the high-speed railway projects to be carried out in the long term. It provides us with another perspective of the high-speed line from Limoges to Poitiers as the first link in an East-West railway line which is to link the region of Lyon to the Atlantic façade, whilst relying on the project for the high-speed line joining Paris, Orléans, Clermont and Lyon.

Quite evidently, insisted on the fact that the project for the high-speed line from Limoges to Poitiers should not constitute an end in itself but should be the first link to serve a vast area in the heart of France, which is larger than Portugal and which lacks reliable railway infrastructures. Within this framework, rather than seeking to contrast the Limoges to Poitiers high-speed railway project with the modernisation of the POLT (Classic line joining Paris and Toulouse via Orléans and Limoges), it would appear wiser to research the ways in which the two projects can complement each other with the aim of determining the best service to offer to the population.

Regarding the financial plan, it would have been better to take into account the European scale of the project, which should place more importance on asserting itself when explaining the modernisation of the Bordeaux-Limoges-Guéret-Lyon railway line. This fits into a railway line which is undeniably of European dimensions and involves linking the Iberian peninsula and Central Europe. Moreover, work on the development of the multi-functionality of the high-speed line from Limoges to Poitiers, by integrating further regional and interregional routes for "High-speed Intercity Trains" would be likely to further reinforce the financial viability of the project.

When new regions are set up, it seems astounding that the Massif Central, as well as two bordering regions as important as “Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes“ or “Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes”, should be henceforth deprived of any important railway links that are recognised nationally for linking them from East to West.

Michel Caniaux and Guillaume Bertrand>> Michel Caniaux (Delegate General of ) and Guillaume Bertrand (Secretary General) leaving the meeting, in the Ministry courtyard 16th June 2016

On the 20th, 21st and 22nd of June, was invited to the TEN-T DAYS or annual TEN-T conference (Trans-European Transport Network). A chance for all to take stock of the 9 corridors.

Violeta Bulc and the Dutch Minister for Transport, Melanie Schultz van Haegen From left to right: Violeta Bulc, Commissioner in charge of Transport, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Dutch Minister for Transport

Worth noting was a conference with the Commissioner in charge of Transport, Violeta Bulc, who insisted that the citizen be placed at the heart of extensive transport projects, notably infrastructure projects, and that the decarbonisation of the sector should be the true priority.

Laurens Jan Brinkhorst and Michel Caniaux From left to right: Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, coordinator of the Mediterranean corridor, Michel Caniaux, delegate general for

Also interesting were the workshops with the corridor coordinators Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, coordinator of the Mediterranean corridor, and Carlo Secchi, coordinator of the Atlantic corridor, both corridors making up the Via Atlantica and which intends to link to ensure continuity of this great East-West European line.

Carlo Secchi, Michel Caniaux and Carlo de Grandis From left to right: Carlo Secchi, coordinator of the Atlantic corridor, Michel Caniaux, delegate general for , Carlo de Grandis, coordinator of the Atlantic corridor

Michel Caniaux was able to meet the two key coordinators of the Via Atlantica, who are paying close attention to 's work, and who advised the constitution of a solid dossier in preparation for revision by the TEN-T, so that they may take into account the connection of the Atlantic corridor with the Mediterranean corridor at the height of Lyon, on the Lyon-Turin line which ceases to be a dead end on an unfinished east-west line.

It was also possible to meet other stakeholders in the founding symposium from the 1st of July 2015 like Herald Ruijters, Head of Unit, and so the link with the Commission could be maintained.

The intervention of Madrid on the 7th of June and the invitation to the TEN-T have become a part of the continuity of the founding symposium of the Via Atlantica from the 1st of July 2015 in Brussels, that is, the establishment of the Via Atlantica in the European sense. This is why, if the accessibility and influence of the territories, as well as the sustainable movement of citizens are to remain a priority, the French should not be outdone and none of the communities involved should miss out on the adventure. If they were to do so, they would only slow things down!