VINCI, Caisse, AXA win €7bn high-speed rail project

The investors’ Lisea consortium has also lined up €3.1bn of debt for the project, which will build a 303 kilometre rail line linking the French cities of Tours and Bordeaux.

The French government has named a group of three investors as preferred bidders on a €7 billion high-speed rail project in France.

The investors, French concessionaire VINCI, the French government investor group Caisse des Dépôts and the infrastructure arm of AXA Private Equity, are now in top position for a concession on the Sud-Europe Atlantique high-speed railway line.

For VINCI and AXA, this is the second rail-related public-private partnership the firms have worked on together in France, after €1bn GSM-R rail communications project that closed in February.

Speaking at the Infrastructure Investor: Europe 2010 forum in Berlin, Romain Verzier, head of structured finance at VINCI, pointed to the project as evidence that the financial crisis has been a good thing for Vinci’s business in that it made private provision of infrastructure a much more attractive option for cash-strapped governments.

Réseau Ferré de France, the French regulator in charge of railways, picked VINCI’s Lisea consoritium for the job just the day before the forum.

The line will connect the western cities of Tours and Bordeaux via a 303 kilometre high-speed rail line. The investors will be asked to provide the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the line under a 50-year contract, Vinci said in a press release.

Verzier said the project will be financed using €3.1 billion of debt, approximately €3.5 billion of subsidies from the French government, and more than €600 million of equity from the Lisea consortium.

The consortium will be remunerated using user fees from passengers using the rail line.