The Government of France has decreed the public utility of the works for the new high-speed railway line between Montpellier and Béziers, which in a second phase will be extended to Perpignan and will reduce travel times for future trains that will link Paris with Barcelona and Madrid. It does so a month after committing to the Executive of Pedro Sánchez to have this new high-speed infrastructure ready before the year 2030, and despite the fact that another report written in December by the French Ministry of Transport postponed this connection beyond 2040.
The Executive led by Emmanuel Macron has made public decree 2023-111, of February 16, which through the declaration of public utility grants a preferential status to this project in terms of its administrative processing. It also decrees the urgency of the works necessary for its construction, sets a maximum term of 15 years to carry out the necessary expropriations and harmonizes the urban documentation of the 14 municipalities through which the new layout will circulate.
“This new line will make it possible to satisfy the growing demand for mobility in the Occitania region by increasing the daily transport offer, and respond to the problems of this railway axis,” defends the French administration in a note. The new line between Montpellier and Béziers will save 18 minutes compared to the current route, almost half of what is expected to be saved once the entire project is completed to Perpignan.
With this new high-speed line, the aim is to complete the “missing link to ensure continuity between Paris and Madrid”, according to the note published by the French Government. The new line will be adapted for passengers and goods, and will eliminate “some of the inconveniences that are generated in the highly urbanized areas that the current conventional line crosses.”
Doubts about the pacts signed with France
On January 19, the Spanish Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, announced a series of commitments agreed with her French counterpart, Clément Beaune, within the framework of the new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation endorsed by both governments. These agreements set the start of Renfe operations in France before the summer or the start-up of services between Lyon and Paris at the end of 2023.
Added to this was an alleged agreement with France to prioritize the expansion of its high-speed network to the Spanish borders. It would be a matter of converting the sections Montpellier-Perpignan (Mediterranean Corridor), Bordeaux-Hendaye (Atlantic Corridor) and Bordeaux-Toulouse (with a view to the future Central Crossing of the Pyrenees) to connect both countries by high speed, since the current lines It only allows driving at speeds below 160 kilometers per hour. As made public by Sánchez’s cabinet, the first two sections would begin their works in 2023 and 2024, respectively, and will probably be ready in 2030.
But a few days later, the French government released a report drafted in December 2022 where it mentioned the possibility of delaying the current budgetary framework in France until 2042. In the same text it is mentioned that if political priority were given to these infrastructures, their construction could be accelerated, something that they intend to achieve with the new decree.