The European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU's financing institution, is granting a EUR 200 million loan to Montpellier Agglomération to extend its urban transport network.

Georges Frêche, President of the Communauté d'Agglomération de Montpellier, and EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive signed a first EUR 100 million financing agreement on 27 June 2005 in Montpellier. Further agreements may be signed in association with the authority's banking partners.

The whole loan will be devoted to constructing a second tram line. 19.8 km long and crossing the conurbation from the North-West to the South-East, this new line will link Saint-Jean de Védas to Jacou via Montpellier, Castelnau le Lez and Le Crès. It forms part of the city's urban transport plan adopted in 2002, which aims to reconfigure the urban environment and boost the attractiveness of public transport with a view to reducing car use in the city and thereby improving people's quality of life.

The EIB supported the construction of Montpellier's first tram line with a EUR 122 million loan in 1997. Although initial traffic forecasts were 75 000 passengers per day, the line now transports 110 000 customers every day. Since its opening in July 2000, over 100 000 000 people have used the first tram line.

Since as far back as the 1960s, the EIB has been assisting investment in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, financing both public infrastructure and private sector industrial projects. Aggregate lending in the region amounts to nearly EUR 1 billion.

The EIB and public transport

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. Thus, between 2000 and end-2004, the EIB lent over EUR 10 billion throughout the European Union for the development of urban transport. It has been involved in financing 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 funding of EUR 2.5 billion since the beginning of the decade for numerous urban transport projects, notably in Lyon, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nancy, Nantes, Orléans, Rennes, St Etienne, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Valenciennes.