October final offers for French high-speed rail line

The third of French rail agency RFF’s high-speed rail line public-private partnerships is scheduled to receive final offers from consortia comprising Bouygues, Eiffage and Vinci in mid-October.

French rail agency RFF has instructed the three shortlisted consortia for the Nimes-Montpellier high-speed rail line to submit their final offers for the public-private partnership (PPP) project in mid-October.

France’s largest developers – Bouygues, Eiffage and Vinci – had submitted initial offers for the 80-kilometre high-speed rail line last May and had been in competitive dialogue with RFF. The Nimes-Montpellier line, connecting two cities in the south of France, is not subject to traffic risk, and will instead be eligible for availability payments from the government. Availability payments are public contributions paid to the private sector in exchange for making the line available in good condition.

Once the line is completed, it will cut the travel time from Paris to Montpellier to three hours.

The Nimes-Montpellier PPP is the last project of RFF's multi-billion euro high-speed rail programme. The rail agency reached an important milestone recently when it reached financial close on the €7.8 billion Tours-Bordeaux high-speed rail line, dubbed “the world's largest rail concession”, with a Vinci-led consortium. That project took almost four years to close due to the financial crisis and a number of idiosyncrasies, including its size and its exposure to traffic risk.

In addition to Tours-Bordeaux and Nimes-Montpellier, French developer Eiffage was awarded the €3.4 billion Bretagne Pays de la Loire (BPL) high-speed rail line in January. Like Tours-Bordeaux, BPL is expected to make use of a guarantee from the French government that can cover up to €800 million of the €1 billion in private sector debt to be used for the project, scheduled to close later this year. The remainder of the funds for BPL will come from the public sector.