EUROPE: Three major contracts have been awarded for construction of the 57·5 km cross-border Mont Cenis base tunnel, which is central to the programme to develop a high-capacity rail route between Lyon and Torino.

The contracts signed on July 7 have a combined value of more than €3bn, with the package being co-financed by Italy, France and the EU.

The €1·47bn Lot 1 contract awarded to a consortium of Eiffage Génie Civil, Spie Batignolles, Ghella and Cogeis covers the 22 km between Villarodin-Bourget/Modane and Italy. Tunnelling is expected to take 72 months, with two TBMs heading towards Italy and blasting towards France.

Lot 2 worth €1·43bn was awarded to a consortium of Vinci Construction Grands Projets, Dodin Campenon Bernard, Vinci Construction France and Webuild. This covers the 23 km between Saint-Martin-la-Porte/La Praz and Modane, as a continuation of the 10 km already completed from Saint-Martin-la-Porte towards Italy. It will be bored using three TBMs, although some blasting will be needed for the more geologically complex parts, and construction is expected to take 65 months.

The €228m Lot 3 is the shortest, covering the 3 km section between the western portal at Saint-Julien-Montdenis and Saint-Martin-la-Porte. This contract was awarded to Implenia Suisse, Implenia France, NGE, Itinera and Rizzani de Eccher. Excavation will be carried out by blasting and is due to be finished in 70 months.

The twin-bore tunnel will be suitable for passenger trains running at up to 220 km/h and 120 km/h freight trains. Construction is being managed by Tunnel Euralpin Lyon Torino, which is owned 50:50 by Italy’s FS Group and France’s Ministry of Economy & Finance.

Due for opening in 2030, the base tunnel will require 162 km of tunnelling in total, of which 60% will be bored and 40% excavated. To date, around 30 km has been completed. The total cost of the project is now put at €8·6bn.

Speaking during the virtual contract signing ceremony, European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said completion of the high capacity link between France and Italy would help to shift large volumes of cross-border traffic from road to rail.