FRENCH transport minister, Mr Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, has signed the financing protocol for phases 1 and 2 of the new Provence Côte d’Azur line (LNPCA) with French National Railways (SNCF) and the local authorities concerned.

The agreement is worth €3.5bn. LNPCA is a combination of new sections and upgrades of the existing network, which is designed to eliminate railway congestion in Marseille, Toulon and Nice, and relieve the slow and congested Marseille - Nice line. A major part of the project is a new underground station at Marseille Saint-Charles and subterranean links to the existing network.

The route is part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), and EU funds are expected to cover 20% of the cost of the project. Central and local government will both contribute 40%, equal to €1.383bn at 2020 prices. The French government reached the financing agreement with local governments in April 2021.

The financing protocol covers projects in phases 1 and 2, which include:

  • a new station at Nice airport
  • creation of a metropolitan express network around Toulon
  • a complete redesign of the tracks at the current surface station at Marseille Saint-Charles to separate west and east traffic flows and allow more trains to run
  • creation of an underground through station at Marseille Saint-Charles, thus saving almost 15 minutes for journeys to Toulon and Nice, and
  • creation of a shuttle service between Cannes, Nice and Menton.

The work is scheduled to start in 2024.

Phase 3 will support further capacity increases and Phase 4 will involve construction of new sections of line in the Cannes and Nice areas.