The European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU's financing institution, is granting a EUR 150 million loan for the construction of the new Nice tramway (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in the south of France).

Maître Jacques Peyrat, President of the Communauté d'Agglomération Nice Côte d'Azur (CANCA), Nice's Mayor/Senator, and EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive signed the memorandum of understanding for the EUR 150 million loan on 2 March 2007 in Nice and announced an initial disbursement of EUR 50 million by the Bank to CANCA.

The EIB loan will be used for the first phase of the tramway works, which concern mainly the construction of the first north-south line of almost 9 km, linking the Comte de Falicon Park&Ride site to the Pont-Michel terminal and serving the city centre via Place Masséna and Place Garibaldi, as well as the construction of a segregated busway stretching almost 10 km on the route of a second tramline which is currently being studied. This line (Line 2) will join the airport and business area to the port of Nice, also passing through the city centre. In addition, the project includes the purchase of tram-sets and development works on the roads adjacent to the tram and the Park&Ride car parks.

This project is a key component of the Urban Transport Plan of the Nice conurbation and aims to make public transport more attractive by providing a modern, integrated and safe service. The objective is to increase the use of public transport in order to reduce the impact of cars in the city and improve the environment and the quality of life in urban areas by providing better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

This plan, which is in line with European Union policies, is eligible for financing by the European Investment Bank. Sustainable urban development is a priority focus of the EIB's operations, for which the Bank has provided finance to the tune of EUR 29.3 billion within the European Union over the past five years, including EUR 16 billion for urban transport. It has thus been involved in public transport projects in a number of major European cities and capitals (see background note).

Moreover, since the financial commitments in this sector are very substantial, it is important, as Philippe de Fontaine Vive stated at the signing ceremony in Nice, that the European Union's financing arm supports the local authorities' infrastructure projects for the benefit of citizens and it is essential that this partnership involves complementarity, while taking account of the diversity of requirements. He welcomed this ceremony in Nice to commemorate the tramway project. He also emphasised his interest in the Pasteur II hospital construction project, which the EIB has undertaken to support with a loan of EUR 100 million.

In addition, the EIB has advanced loans totalling almost EUR 2 billion in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, mainly for investment in the transport sector, but also for healthcare and environmental management (water treatment and sanitation) schemes and innovative projects in the industrial and telecommunications sectors.

The EIB and urban 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 while at the same time encouraging economic expansion in towns. In France, it has provided funding of more than EUR 3 billion over the decade for numerous urban transport projects, notably in Bordeaux, Clermont Ferrand, Grenoble, Le Mans, Lyon, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nancy, Nantes, Nice, Orléans, Rennes, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Valenciennes.

Throughout the European Union, it has contributed to the development of urban transport with loans totalling some EUR 19 billion over the same period. It has been involved in financing metros and tramways in various cities, including Athens, Alicante, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Cracow, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Manchester, Munich, Oporto, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, Seville and Valencia.

The EIB considers that all these projects contribute to the objective of improved management and enhancement of the environment. As a European institution committed to furthering the policies of the EU and, more specifically, to the realisation of projects implementing these policies, it has allocated to this priority objective one third of its loans within the EU-25, totalling almost EUR 53 billion over the past five years.