French PM cancels controversial airport construction
France has finally renounced the plans to construct the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport, while announcing plans to modernize the existing Nantes-Atlantique airport, develop the Rennes-Saint-Jacques airport and rail infrastructure in the West of France.
The airport’s construction was contested by activists from the ZAD (Zone to Defend) movement, which had protested the plans for more than a decade. ZAD activists have a tradition to physically occupy sites of planned development projects in defense of the environment.
There will be no airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, since the conditions for its implementation are "not met", French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced on Wednesday. Once the protestors evacuate the area, expropriated farmers will be able to return to their land "if they wish", the PM stated. The State intends to gradually cede the land of Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
The Prime Minister also announced the “redevelopment” of Nantes-Atlantique airport, Le Figaro reports.
“As a first step, the terminal building will be upgraded and the runway area will be improved to accommodate more passengers,” said Philippe. At the same time, "the procedure for lengthening the runway will be initiated, it will make it possible to reduce noise pollution in Nantes,” he said. We will do everything we can to reduce these nuisances in the village of Saint-Aignan-Grandlieu, the head of government said. In the event of failure, “exemplary compensation” will be given to the inhabitants.
The expansion of the Nantes-Atlantique airport is suggested in a report sent by mediators to the Prime Minister on December 13. The objective is to enable it to receive 9 million passengers and 80,000 aircraft movements by 2040. In this document, experts expect a gradual optimization of airport facilities from 2020 onwards, with a phasing of the work in three stages until 2035. According to this report, the cost of redevelopment could be between 365 and 460 million euros. This new project could also be widely contested.
The government also intends to support the development of Rennes-Saint-Jacques airport “if the region so wishes”. The terminal will be "expanded" to "better distribute air traffic" in the western part of the country.
The executive hopes to “play more on rail-air complementarity” by developing high-speed rail infrastructure in the region. The challenge for the Rennais and Nantais is to rally the major Parisian airports directly.
“These direct links exist but are insufficient, so they will be fluidized and multiplied to keep pace with the increase in traffic,” said Édouard Philippe.
He added: “I ask the Minister of Transport to study, within six months, the conditions for implementing these three complementary projects, which consist of optimizing the use of Nantes-Atlantique, networking regional airports and using high-speed rail lines to reach the Paris airports”.
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