The French government has given the go ahead for three new major high-speed TGV rail lines.

In 2006, construction will start on a new line, the Rhone-Rhine, Lyon and Strasbourg.

In the same year, the TGV line from Paris will be extended to Strasbourg on the German border.

Two years later, the line from Paris to south-west France will be extended from Tours as far as Bordeaux.

There will also be an upgrade of the TGV rail link between Lyon and Turin, the extension of the southern section of the TGV network west along the Mediterranean coast to Montpellier from Nimes and a TGV extension into Brittany.

The government has halted plans to sell the lucrative state-owned motorway network.

It said it will use income from motorway tolls to help fund the expansion of the TGV network.

Under the slogan "transport will fund transport", the rail building programme is part of a £14billion national infrastructure programme as far ahead as 2025.

The government also announced the go-ahead for a major international canal from the river Seine and for several sections of toll motorway.

Information from Agence France Presse