The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is making available, in partnership with four banking institutions, FRF 1 050 million (ECU 160 million) (1) for construction of a light urban railway system in Rennes. This operation is structured as a loan of FRF 450m to DUAR (District Urbain de l'Agglomération Rennaise) and a loan of FRF 600m with Crédit Local de France, Société Générale, Crédit National-BFCE and Bayerische Vereinsbank. The finance contract was signed today in Luxembourg by Ms Ariane Obolensky, Vice-President of the EIB, Mr Edmond Hervé, President of DUAR and Mayor of Rennes, and representatives of the financial institutions.

Running on a north-west/south-east axis, the line will have a total length of 9.4 km and serve 15 stations. The planned rolling stock will consist of 16 train sets, each capable of carrying 210 passengers. With services every 2.5 minutes at peak times, the system will be able to transport 5 000 passengers an hour in both directions. The project encompasses the construction of a depot and workshop, a centralised control room and four park-and-ride facilities with a total of 900 spaces. It also includes the landscaping of areas adjacent to the stations.

The technology chosen is that of the VAL automatic light railway system, which has already been put through its paces in Lille and Toulouse. Featuring rubber wheels, the system offers state-of-the-art reliability combined with comfort and safety.

Its construction will help to improve traffic conditions and hence the quality of urban life. The choice of electrically powered trains with rubber wheels will eliminate pollution and keep noise and vibration to a minimum.

In France, EIB financing for urban infrastructure has amounted to nearly FRF 13 billion over the past five years. In the field of transport, the EIB has focused on two types of project: on the construction of by-passes and ring roads and on development of public transport, road and parking systems. The underlying aim of all these schemes has been to improve traffic conditions and reduce urban traffic with its attendant problems.In the public transport sector, Strasbourg, Nantes and St-Etienne have benefited from EIB financing for construction of their tramway systems and Rouen for its metro-bus. Lyons for its part attracted a loan to extend line B of its metro. In all, more than FRF 2.3bn has been made available for major public transport schemes in France over the past five years.Within the European Union as a whole, nearly FRF 22bn has been advanced over the same period for urban transport projects. Major examples include metro systems for Athens, Lisbon, Manchester, the West Midlands, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia and tramway systems for Rostock and Sheffield.

(1) The conversion rates used by the Bank for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31 March 1997, when ECU 1 = FRF 6.57.