April 13, 2018

French Council of State rejects GPSO challenge

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THE French Council of State has rejected appeals seeking to overturn the Declaration of Public Utility (DUP) authorising the Grand Southwestern Railway Project (GPSO), which will extend the Sud-Europ Atlantique high-speed line from Bordeaux to Toulouse with a branch to Dax.

Several municipalities, campaign groups and residents have sought to annul the DUP, which was granted in a decree in June 2016.

In a statement published on April 11, the Council of State says that the DUP procedure was correctly followed, and it rejects allegations that the evaluation of economic and social evaluation of the project was insufficient.

“Developing the existing lines between Bordeaux and Dax and Bordeaux and Toulouse would not offer the same advantages as the projected [new] lines,” the statement says. “The costs and damage to private property are not sufficient to deprive the planned railways of their public utility, particularly in view of the measures taken to reduce the damaging effects of the project.”

While the ruling is a victory for advocates of the project, questions remain over its implementation. The recent Duron report into the future of rail infrastructure investment in France indicated that under a steady-state funding scenario, the Bordeaux - Toulouse line would not be completed until after 2037 and even the high-funding scenario suggests that that the Bordeaux - Dax line will not be needed until after 2037 as sufficient capacity will be available on the existing line.

The government’s forthcoming infrastructure bill is expected to provide clarity on which funding scenario is ultimately adopted.

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