French company Eiffage to make bid for UK high-speed rail scheme

French infrastructure company Eiffage has made one of its first steps into the UK market by joining Carillion and Kier to bid for a slice of the UK’s forthcoming $68bn high-speed rail network.

We are looking forward to working with our UK partners to bring the latest design and construction expertise from continental Europe– Pierre Berger, chairman of Eiffage

The consortium aims to be shortlisted to bid for the first set of tenders in September. These will take the form of nine $1.6bn design-and-build contracts. 

Richard Howson, the chief executive of Carillion, said: "We are delighted to announce the formation of this new joint venture that brings together three companies with world-class skills and resources, and an absolute focus on safety and quality, which will be required for the successful delivery of the High Speed 2 programme.

"We look forward to working together to support the delivery of HS2, which is a vital addition to the UK rail network." 

Pierre Berger, the chairman and chief executive of Eiffage, said: "We are looking forward to working with our UK partners to bring the latest design and construction expertise from continental Europe to support the successful delivery of this new high speed Rail route." 

Previously, Eiffage had agreed an alliance with Costain to bid for nuclear work, although as yet no contracts have been tendered.  

Its present consortium, whose formation was trailed in February, continues a partnership between Carillion and Kier that has already worked on the London Crossrail scheme. It will join a list of other consortiums that are seeking to combine the financial muscle of large continental contractors with the local knowledge of UK firms.  

Others in the running include Spain’s FCC Construcción, which has joined forces with Laing O’Rourke and Murphy and an alliance between Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and Volker Fitzpatrick. Spanish contractor Ferrovial has teamed up with Bam and Morgan Sindall and Vinci has partnered with Balfour Beatty. 

Meanwhile, other contractors, such as Skanska and Costain, are thought to be still mustering their forces prior to announcing bids.  

The hybrid bill to allow construction of the line to begin is still making its way through parliament. It is expected to gain royal assent towards the end of next year. Construction could then begin in 2018.

Image: Eiffage in its native habitat: the Gare de l’Este in Paris (Source: Poulpy/Wikimedia Commons)

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