Two remain for France’s last HSR contract

Bouygues and Vinci, two of France’s biggest developers, have submitted final offers for a €1.6bn stretch of high-speed rail connecting Nimes and Montpellier. Eiffage declined to put in a final bid for the project, due to be awarded at the beginning of next year.

France’s €13 billion high-speed rail public-private partnership (PPP) programme is drawing to a close, with final offers submitted last week for a €1.6 billion stretch connecting Nimes and Montpellier, two cities in southern France.

Two of France’s ‘Big Three’ developers – Bouygues and Vinci – have put in final offers for the project, the last contract that forms part of the country’s high-speed rail PPP programme.

Eiffage, which recently closed the €3.4 billion Bretagne Pays de La Loire (BPL) project, declined to deliver a final offer, even though it participated in the initial round of bidding held in May 2010. Of France’s ‘Big Three’, Bouygues is the only firm that has yet to win one of France’s high-speed rail PPPs.

Reseau Ferre de France (RFF), the French rail agency, said in a statement that it was looking to nominate a preferred bidder in early 2012. Like BPL, Nimes-Montpellier is backed by availability payments – a public contribution paid in exchange for making the asset available in good condition – and is not exposed to traffic risk. That distinction fell to the €7.8 billion Tours-Bordeaux project, closed with the help of a government-guaranteed loan by a Vinci-led consortium earlier this year.

The 80-kilometre Nimes-Montpellier high-speed rail line is expected to be up and running in 2017.