Serge Godard, President of the Syndicat Mixte de Transport en Commun de l'agglomération clermontoise (SMTC), and Philippe de Fontaine Vive, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), today (Friday, 29 October 2004) signed the financing agreement for the Clermont-Ferrand tramway.

This financing operation involves three major partner banks of SMTC as financial intermediaries (Dexia Crédit Local, the Crédit Agricole group and the Caisses d'Epargne group), together with Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.

The tramway is the first of two key arteries recommended by the Urban Mobility Plan, whose aim is to organise transport in an optimal manner but also preserve the quality of life and guarantee that all those living in Clermont-Ferrand enjoy the same facilities in terms of mobility. The second artery, running from East to West (Léo 2000), is the subject of a three-year long pilot scheme that will enable a tram-bus (an intermediate vehicle with an optical guidance system) to undergo trials on a dedicated site in the city centre.

With 14 kilometres of line and 31 stations between La Plaine in the north and the Pardieu SNCF railway station in the south, the Clermont-Ferrand tramway will link the town's main facilities. It will serve 75 500 inhabitants, 54 000 jobs and 17 000 schoolchildren or students within a 500 m radius of the stations (i.e. 29 % of the population, 41% of jobs within the Urban Transport Area, and 63% of students, as well as 80% of the beds in public and private healthcare establishments) and will be connected with the SNCF network at Pardieu, and subsequently at Gravanches in the medium term.

As part of its remit to support projects that help to protect the environment and improve the quality of life, particularly in urban areas, the EIB's Board of Directors responded favourably to the application from SMTC by granting it an initial advance of EUR 120 million for construction of the tramway. This operation involved a direct loan to SMTC of EUR 30 million. The balance is taken up by Dexia and Crédit Agricole, which are utilising EIB funds to improve their financing terms. This intermediation is supplemented by that of Caisses d'Épargne, totalling EUR 35.7 million, under the Sustainable Urban Transport Programme, which was drawn up by the EIB and ratified on 23 September of this year by the Secrétariat d'État aux Transports et à la Mer.

The EIB sees its lending in favour of exclusive lane public transport as part of its priority action to promote sustainable urban development, with the emphasis on reducing pollution and improving the quality of life in urban areas while at the same time encouraging economic expansion in towns.

In this connection, the EIB has, over the past five years, lent more than EUR 11 billion throughout the European Union for the development of urban transport. It has been involved in financing metros and tramways in the UK Midlands and cities such as Athens, Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Brussels, Berlin, Valencia, Lisbon, Madrid, Munich, Düsseldorf, London, Manchester, Sheffield, Dublin, Budapest and Prague. In France, the EIB has provided funding of nearly EUR 2.2 billion over ten years for urban transport projects, in particular exclusive lane transport systems in Lyon, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nancy, Nantes, Orléans, Rennes, St Etienne, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Valenciennes.