On October 17th, 2000 the IRAM Executive Council held its 3rd meeting this year, the second extraordinary meeting. The main purpose was to listen to a report on the results from a broad study of transport systems that could provide access to Plateau de Bure Observatory in the future. In addition, the Council got briefed on recent developments in the legal procedure related to the cable car accident of July 1st, 1999 , and took a final decision on financial matters which had already been discussed at the previous, regular meeting in June 2000.
Concerning the future access to the Plateau de Bure, the Technical Division of INSU, directed by François BAUDIN, had requested a consortium led by SCETAUROUTE, Lyon to prepare a study of all possible means of access to the Plateau de Bure (a similar survey had been conducted more than 20 years ago). The new study has been completed in October. It identified 10 different options which were characterized in terms of a large number of criteria, amongst which the safety and reliability (=24 hours availability during 365 days per year) played key roles.
The multi-criterion analysis confirmed that a cable car solution in the area of the old Plateau de Bure cable car ranks very highly on technical grounds. It does, however, run against serious psychological barriers. This makes other solutions look more attractive, in particular if one adds as a criterion the interest of the local authorities who want to open any new transport system to the public, i.e. tourists.
This local interest is motivated by two ideas. On the one side there is an interest to develop further the already well developed skiing (and summer vacation) resort at Superdevoluy. On the other side there is a longer-term interest to develop a scientific outreach project in connection with the observatory installations.
This twofold interest led to the choice of a combination between a telecabin and a `funiculaire' solution as the current baseline. The telecabin would have the capacity to bring a larger number of people up to about 2000m, where ski pistes are maintained, and the `funiculaire' would go from there to the observatory at 2550m, and would at least initially only be used for IRAM purposes.
Such a combined solution requires a large effort. Discussions have started between the CNRS, the region (PACA), and the local Conseil Général to share the cost. In parallel, SCETAUROUTE is working out technical and other details of the baseline solution. Hope is that this will serve as basis for a final ``go ahead'' of the project within the next 6 months. If this goal can be met, a new means of access to the Plateau de Bure could be ready by the end of 2002 or in 2003 at the latest.
Until this date, we will continue to use helicopters and to organize ground transportation which includes climbing the ``Fenêtre'' area. Unfortunately, both modes of transport require good meteorological conditions. Given these restrictions, we will continue to limit the staff present on Bure at any one time, and as a consequence the activities that can be realized. For the observations with the interferometer this means that they will be carried out on a best effort basis but not at the previous level of efficiency. Full scale operations like in the past will have to await the arrival of the new transport system.