FRANCE’s prime minister, Mr Jean Castex, has confirmed in a letter to Ms Carole Delga, president of Occitanie region, and Mr Jean-Luc Moudenc, mayor of Toulouse, on April 27, that the government will contribute €4.1bn towards the €6bn project to build a 222km high-speed line from Bordeaux to Toulouse.

The prime minister also announced that a contribution from the European Union, covering 20% of the total cost, will be sought. The rest of the funding will come from local authorities along the line.

The Bordeaux - Toulouse high-speed line will share a 55km section south of Bordeaux with a future high-speed line to Spain. An appeal by local groups against permission to rebuild the northern approaches to Toulouse as part of the project was recently rejected by the State Council. 

Construction of the new line is expected to start in 2024, with opening envisaged in 2030. Completion of the project will cut the Bordeaux - Toulouse journey time from 2h 10min today to around 1 hour, and the Paris - Toulouse journey time from about 4h 20min to around 3 hours.

Castex also announced that he has decided to accelerate construction of the Montpellier - Béziers section of the future Montpellier - Perpignan high-speed line and that he hopes permission to go-ahead with the entire project could be obtained in 2022. 

These announcements effectively reverse a policy, introduced by President Emmanuel Macron when he came to power in 2017, to put an immediate halt to plans to build more high-speed lines in France. Macron said his priority was to improve "everyday transport" first. However, since then, there has been mounting pressure from the French regions to push ahead with high-speed projects, and to reduce reliance on air transport in the fight against global warming. Indeed, the government has introduced a policy to discourage domestic short-haul flights in favour of high-speed trains.

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