FRANCE: The €3·3bn PPP contract for construction and maintenance of LGV Bretagne-Pays de la Loire was signed in Paris on July 28, by RFF President Hubert du Mesniland and Pierre Berger, Managing Director of Eiffage. This follows the signing of a final agreement on the funding package in Rennes on July 13.

Under the 25-year contract tendered in 2008 Eiffage subsidiary Eiffage Rail Express will build and maintain the 182 km high speed line between Le Mans and Rennes, plus 32 km of connections with the existing network, including a spur to the Le Mans - Nantes line near Sablé-sur-Sarthe. This will cut journey times from Paris to Rennes by 37 min and Paris to Nantes by 8 min. Construction is expected to take around five years, with preliminary studies running from May 2011 to July 2012 and civil engineering starting at the end of 2012. Completion is envisaged by autumn 2016.

Claiming that the deal is 'the first public-private partnership contract ever signed for the construction of a high-speed line', RFF says the 'innovative project' will optimise network efficiency and 'encourage the development of local high-speed services'. The new line is expected to provide a significant economic boost to western France, and ERE has committed to placing more than 30% of the work with local companies, creating 10 000 jobs during the construction phase.

Under the financing agreement, ERE will receive contributions from the local authorities and RFF during the construction period, and will also raise €1bn via a consortium of 12 banks. Once the line opens for operation, the consortium will receive availability payments from the state and RFF to cover the capital investment and maintenance costs. EIB is to provide €552·5m towards the construction costs, and Caisse des Dépôts will contribute around €250m over 20 years.

ERE will also build a 3·6 km chord at Sablé-sur-Sarthe to enable the operation of direct regional high speed services between Nantes and Rennes. This is being funded by the local authorities and RFF under a separate deal valued at €36·3m.