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Bouygues team favourite for France’s last HSR deal

The Bouygues-led consortium, which also includes French fund manager Meridiam, is the preferred bidder to build and operate a €1.8bn high-speed rail public-private partnership – the last such deal in rail agency RFF’s €13bn high-speed rail programme.

French rail agency Reseau Ferre de France (RFF) has named a consortium led by French developer Bouygues as the preferred bidder for a 25-year contract to build, operate and maintain the Nimes-Montpellier high-speed rail line – the last big public-private partnership (PPP) contract that forms part of RFF’s €13 billion high-speed rail programme.

The frontrunner – which also includes French firms Colas, Alstom Transport and Spie Batignoles, in addition to local fund managers Meridiam and Fideppp – will be responsible for developing the 80-kilometre high-speed rail line, which has an estimated cost of €1.84 billion, RFF said in a statement. A consortium spearheaded by Vinci was also in the running for the project.

A significant part of the line will be funded by the central government and local authorities, with the latter providing a grant covering up to 40 percent of the construction cost. The central government’s contribution will be used to finance 20 years of availability payments – public contributions paid in exchange for making the line available in good condition. Construction should start later this year, with Nimes-Montpellier to open in 2017.

Bouygues said it expects to reach financial close on the project during the first half of this year.

RFF is now very close to winding down the PPPs that form part of its high-speed rail programme. Last year, it awarded the €7.8 billion Tours-Bordeaux project – the only project to carry traffic risk – to a Vinci-led team and the €3.4 billion Bretagne Pays de la Loire – a PPP, like Nimes-Montpellier – to Eiffage.

*To read more about the future of France’s PPP programme and other opportunities for private investment, look out for our France country report, to be published in the February 2012 edition of Infrastructure Investor magazine.