French court sides with Atlantia on €2bn toll contract

France’s highest court has re-confirmed Atlantia as the winner of a satellite-based tolling system for heavy vehicles. The tender had been annulled by a lower court following a legal challenge by a Sanef-led consortium, the second-placed bidder in the procurement process.

It was never going to be easy for a foreign-led consortium to break into the French market, but Italian toll road developer Atlantia found out just how hard it could get when a legal challenge threatened to scupper its €2 billion contract to install a satellite-based tolling system for heavy vehicles across France.

In the end, France’s highest court – the Council of State – sided with Atlantia and re-confirmed it as the winner of the contract, known as the Eco Taxe Poids Lourds, overruling a previous sentence from a lower court that had annulled the tender process. 

The latter decision was taken in response to a legal challenge lodged by the second-placed bidder – the ALVIA consortium, including French companies Sanef, Egis and Caisse des Depots, among others – citing irregularities in the tender process.

Giovanni Castellucci, Atlantia’s chief executive, acknowledged the significance of the high court’s decision in a statement:

“Confirmation of the win, beating off competition from such highly qualified bidders with a well established presence in the French market strengthens the group’s position as the world’s leading supplier of electronic tolling systems.”

Atlantia will be required to implement and operate a tolling system across 15,000 kilometres of France’s road network which aims to charge a fee from heavy vehicles weighing over 3.5 tons. In addition to Atlantia (70 percent), the winning consortium includes French companies Thales (11 percent), SNCF (10 percent), SFR (6 percent) and Steria (3 percent). 

The Italian operator expects to net more than €2 billion of revenue over the life of the 13-year concession contract. Design and construction are expected to take up 21 months with operation and maintenance comprising the remaining 11.5 years of the concession.