Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, Deputy Mayor and Chairman of Nantes Métropole, and Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive, Vice-President of the EIB (European Investment Bank), signed two finance contracts in Nantes today making for total commitments of EUR 130 million.

90 million will be devoted to upgrading public transport infrastructure in Greater Nantes, specifically through the extension of tramway lines 2 (from Trocardière to Neustrie) and 3 (to Saint Herblain) and the construction of a new line 4 which will link St Sébastien-sur-Loire to the city centre.

The infrastructure concerned by this loan represents a key element of the Urban Transport Plan for Greater Nantes adopted in 2000. It aims to increase the attractiveness of public transport and encourage a reduction in private car use in the city, thus helping to enhance the quality of urban life.

40 million will also go towards upgrading the drinking water supply and sewage treatment systems of the Nantes conurbation. The corresponding investment programme includes, in particular, the Neptune III' conurbation contract concluded between Nantes Métropole and the Loire-Bretagne Water Board for the period 2004-2007. Its four main objectives are to safeguard drinking water resources (in particular via the construction of a back-up water intake on the Erdre for the La Roche plant), reduce the discharge of pollutants into the Erdre, protect and restore some 250 km of streams bordered by wetlands, and lastly adapt the sewerage system at the Pellerin and La Montagne plants to the constraints of urban development and bring it into line with the regulations.

The EIB, the European Union's financing institution, has previously mounted a number of lending operations in Nantes as part of its efforts to safeguard the environment and improve the quality of urban life. It financed two extensions of the tramway network, in 1992 and 2000, to the tune of EUR 90 million and 45 million respectively. In 1995, it also lent EUR 30 million towards urban waste processing and recycling schemes. Since its establishment in 1958, the EIB has supported capital expenditure projects in the Pays de la Loire region with loans of over EUR 900 million.

These loans are in keeping with the objective of safeguarding and improving the environment, to which the EIB - the EU's financing institution - devotes one third of its funding in the EU-25, equating to almost EUR 47 billion over the past five years.

In this framework, the EIB has granted EUR 7.6 billion in support of schemes aimed at enhancing the quality of air and water (water and wastewater networks) or involving solid and hazardous waste processing and site decontamination, thus fostering better management of natural resources. Between 2000 and end-2004, the EIB financed exclusive lane public transport projects to the tune of some EUR 10 billion as part of its effort to improve the quality of life in urban areas, contributing to funding metros and tramways in cities such as Athens, Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Brussels, Berlin, Valencia, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Munich, Düsseldorf, Manchester, Dublin, Budapest and Prague. In France, the EIB has provided loans worth EUR 1.7 billion since the beginning of this decade for numerous urban public transport projects, notably in Lyon, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nancy, Orléans, Rennes, St Etienne, Strasbourg and Valenciennes.