Saar-Moselle is a region marked by strong cross-border exchanges: many German companies are based on the French side of the border and vice versa. Many workers commute across the border every day (especially from France to Germany) and there are strong cross-border movements for leisure activities, shopping, and education and training.
The region is undergoing economic restructuring, following the closure of coal mines and the end of heavy industry. In Moselle-East, unemployment is very high (between 15% and 20%). In Saarland, unemployment rate is around 7%. The social consequences are loss of income and impoverishment of the population. Population in Moselle-East is declining, with young graduates leaving the region. In Saarland, by 2050 the forecast is for the current 1 million inhabitants to reduce by one quarter.
The Eurodistrict commissioned a technical and economic evaluation to create a wider regional tram-train network capitalising on existing disused rail lines, and generating related social and economic benefits and development opportunities. Options covered a new tram-train route Saarbrucken - Forbach, connecting to the existing 33.6 km tram-train route Saarbrücken - Sarreguemines; plus possible extensions to towns and manufacturing sites in the wider region - with particular reference to better connections between the French and German communes and the main employment opportunities in the Saarbrücken metropolitan area. Plus an opportunity to exploit innovative technologies for tram and bus using bio-gas generated in the region (enabling operation on non-electrified routes, or using electricity generated by biogas).
An important component of the work was to also assess the socio-economic and urban regeneration effects of the options, to demonstrate how investment in these transport links can help realise economic development and regeneration benefits - and so make the investment case stronger.