FRANCE: Infrastructure manager RFF has announced its intention to start exclusive negotiations with a Vinci-led consortium to build and maintain the 340 km Tours – Bordeaux high speed line under a PPP concession.

The consortium, led by Vinci and including Caisse des Dépôts and Axa, was selected from a shortlist of three consortia at an RFF board meeting on March 29. The infrastructure manager hopes to finalise the concession agreement for the €7∙2bn project ‘by the summer’, however it reserves the right to re-open discussions with the other two shortlisted groups, one led by Bouygues and the other by Eiffage, if financial close with Vinci cannot be reached.

The line is the first stage of RFF’s LGV Sud Europe-Atlantique programme which includes planned high speed lines from Poitiers to Limoges, and from Bordeaux towards Toulouse and the Spanish border.

In addition to the construction of 302 route-km of high speed line, the Tours – Bordeaux project includes connection to the existing main line to allow TGVs to serve Poitiers, Angoulême and Châtellerault. The journey time from Paris to Bordeaux is expected to be reduced by 1 h to around 2 h when the line opens in 2016.

Of the projected €7∙2bn cost, a maximum of half will be met through funding from the state and five regional authorities. A combination of RFF and the concessionaire will meet the remainder.