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'Motorway of the seas' delayed

Project linking Nantes with the north coast of Spain is finally due to launch in early September.

A “SEA motorway” project linking Nantes with the north coast of Spain is finally due to launch in early September, six months later than planned.

The LD Lines service to Gijon aims to reduce the number of heavy freight vehicles using roads in the south-west of France, by putting them on ferries instead.

However the launch hit a series of administrative hurdles that made it miss the original end-of-March launch date.

LD Lines managing director Christophe Santoni said everything was now ready for the route to begin next month.

It will begin with three weekly overnight round trips, each crossing taking about 14 hours, with the capacity to carry 110

LD Lines said it would consider increasing the frequency to daily if there was enough demand.

It is hoped the new route will reduce goods traffic on the main road freight corridor from France over the western Pyrenees to Spain by up to 5% – the equivalent of 40,000 fewer vehicles each year. This figure should double within five years.

The service is the second of its kind in France: LD Lines ran a freight route from Toulon to Rome from 2005, but it was withdrawn last year because of heavy losses.

There are plans for two other links: from Le Havre to the Spanish port of Vigo and from Toulon to Sète-Genoa in Italy, although both of these are at an early stage in planning.

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