The French Government delays the construction of the High-Speed Train between Montpellier and Barcelona
France will not allow High-Speed Trains from Barcelona to Central and Northern Europe to run at their maximum velocity since it refuses to build the 156 kilometre high-speed railway stretch between Perpignan and Montpellier. This infrastructure has been declared to be one of the European Union’s strategic transport priorities, since it connects the Iberian Peninsula with the rest of the continent via the Mediterranean Railway Corridor. Many years ago, the French Government promised to build this stretch before 2020, an engagement reconfirmed by Sarkozy’s executive. However, the current Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has paused work on the project and delayed it until after 2030.
Barcelona (ACN).- France will not allow High-Speed Trains from Barcelona to Central and Northern Europe to run at the highest possible speed since it has delayed construction of the 156 kilometre TGV stretch between Perpignan and Montpellier until after 2030. This infrastructure has been declared to be one of the European Union’s strategic transport priorities for the next few years, since it connects the Iberian Peninsula with the rest of the continent through a High-Speed Mediterranean Railway Corridor. However, following the French Government’s decision, High-Speed Trains will have to slow down to 100 km/h between Montpellier and Perpignan, which will increase travelling time by around an hour. Many years ago, the French Government promised to build the Montpellier-Perpignan stretch before 2020, an engagement reconfirmed by Sarkozy’s executive. However, the current Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has paused work on the project and delayed it until beyond 2030 due to a lack of funds.
In fact, Ayrault has delayed the construction of all the planned TGV lines and has only given the green light to the four which are already under construction: the line linking Le Mans to Rennes, that linking Tours to Bordeaux, that connecting Bradecourt to Strasbourg and, finally, Nîmes to Montpellier. The French Government simply argues there is no money for building the rest within the next few years, as it is “financially unreal”. Sarkozy’s government had planned a very ambitious High-Speed Network, which would more than double the length of the current one. This railway High-Speed Network was included in a €245 billion plan to strengthen transport infrastructures in France within the next years. Ayrault’s Cabinet considers the plan to be unfeasible and by stopping many of the projects, it has also stopped the high-speed railway connection with Spain, both through Catalonia and the Basque Country, delaying it until after 2030. Both of these projects were EU strategic priorities. In addition, the third connection with Spain through the middle of the Pyrenees, linking Toulouse to Zaragoza, has been delayed until after 2050.
France's initial commitment to have the railway ready by 2020 was already perceived as arriving too late
The French Government had engaged in building the High-Speed Railway between Perpignan and Montpellier, which would allow Barcelona and Paris to be linked in less than 5 hours by train. However, with the decision announced on Thursday, High-Speed Trains will still connect the Catalan and the French capitals but the trip will take an additional hour. Between Perpignan and Montpellier High-Speed Trains will be obliged to run at 100 km/h. In fact, the French Government already built the 35 km High-Speed railway stretch between Perpignan and the Spanish border three years ago, while the Spanish Government had the stretch between the French border and Figueres also ready by 2010. TGV trains started to circulate between Perpignan and Figueres in December 2010. In the next two years, the Spanish Government built the stretch between Barcelona and Figueres, which means that from next September, trains will be able to run at high-speed between the Catalan capital and Perpignan. Therefore, the French Government’s commitment to have the railway between Perpignan and Montpellier ready by 2020 was already perceived as arriving too late. The decision to wait an additional decade for the connection significantly hits trans-border transport and cooperation between Spain and France and damages Catalan interests.
Perpignan asks the French Government to be “coherent” with European priorities and the agreements signed with Spain
The municipalities of the Perpignan Urban Area, which encompasses 24 local governments, asked the French Government “to keep to the prioritisation” of the TGV between Perpignan and Montpellier. The commonwealth of municipalities, Perpignan Meditérranée, asked the French Government to reconsider its decision. From Perpignan, they are arguing that the French Executive should be “coherent” with the priorities agreed with the European Union institutions and the rest of the EU Member States, which clearly include the High-Speed Connection between Montpellier and Barcelona. In addition, they asked their government to honour the bilateral agreements signed between France and Spain regarding this issue, since the Spanish infrastructure has already been built. On top of this, they have reminded officials that the conventional railway line covering the distance between Montpellier and Perpignan “is saturated” at certain points.