As part of its action in support of protection of the urban environment in Europe, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the financing institution of the European Union, is making available to Syndicat intercommunal à vocation multiple (SIVOM) of Orleans a loan for FRF 300 million (ECU 45 million)(1) for construction of the Greater Orleans area's first tram line. The intermediaries for this EIB loan will be Crédit Local de France-DEXIA (FRF 200 million) and Caisse d'Epargne et de Prévoyance Val de France-Orléanais (FRF 100 million). The contractual agreements were signed today in Orleans by Mr Jean-Pierre Sueur, Mayor of Orleans and President of SIVOM, Mr Jacques Guerber, Vice-President of CLF-DEXIA, Mr Philippe Moneta, Chairman of the Board of Caisse d'Epargne et de Prévoyance Val de France-Orléanais, and Ms Ariane Obolensky, Vice-President of the EIB.

The Greater Orleans area's first north-south tram line will, by the year 2000, link amenities on the outskirts of the city (hospital, post office giro centre, university, exhibition park, etc.), as well as the municipalities of Fleury les Aubray and Olivet and the La Source district, with the historic city centre, thereby forming the backbone of the conurbation with its population of 260 000. The new line will have a total length of 18 km and serve 24 stations, 15 of which will be transfer points for bus services. The rolling stock is to comprise 22 low-floor tramcar sets. The project also includes a depot/workshop plus six park-and-ride car parks, and will require construction of a new bridge over the River Loiret.

The tramway will have a capacity of 2 400 passengers per hour in each direction and is expected to boost substantially the proportion of journeys made by public transport in the Greater Orleans area (currently 15%), thereby contributing to a marked improvement in traffic conditions and the quality of life of those living and working in the city centre.

Set up 40 years ago by the Treaty of Rome, the EIB finances public and private-sector capital projects giving concrete expression to the European Union's objectives. The Bank earmarks more than one third of its loans within the European Union for supporting environmental protection and quality of life improvement projects (ECU 28 billion over the past five years), especially in those urban areas where almost two thirds of Europe's population is concentrated.In this context, the EIB provides loans for dedicated urban public transport systems. Reducing car traffic and lowering noise and air pollution levels, schemes such as the Orléans tramway also serve to restimulate local economic growth. The EIB has participated, to the tune of some ECU 4.4 billion over the past five years, in the implementation of similar projects in around thirty European cities, including Athens, Rome, Milan, Valencia, Madrid, Bilbao, Oporto, Lisbon, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Stuttgart, Munich, Rostock and others. In France, this policy is pursued on a particularly large scale, with the Bank helping to finance the metro networks in Lyons, Toulouse and Rennes, and the tramway systems in Strasbourg, Saint-Etienne, Nantes, Montpellier and now Orleans. As with all its activities, the EIB conducts these operations in close cooperation with the banking sector, promoting the creation of balanced financing packages and mobilisation of resources geared to the specific requirements of such projects.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 September 1998, when ECU 1 = FRF 6.58.