The signing of the Relance Plan is the result of a long process of negotiation between the French toll road concessionaires and the French Government that began in late 2012 and closed in mid-2015.
The idea of the Relance Plan came about as a result of the success of its most direct predecessor called the Paquet Vert, an investment package implemented in France between 2010 and 2013 whose main objective was to put in place projects designed to improve the integration of infrastructures in the environment while at the same time driving economic and industrial growth in the areas near the toll roads. The investment had a major innovation component consisting of encouraging imaginative solutions for the sustainable development of toll roads as well as upgrading older ones to improve noise protection or hybrid resources. Sanef invested 250 million euros through the Paquet Vert in exchange for the extension of the duration of its two concessions by one year.
As a result it became clear that it would be possible to move towards a plan that was both more developed and also more ambitious than the Paquet Vert, with higher investment and which took into account the features of the concession contracts with the right balance between obligations and commitments (investment, service levels for operation) and rights (the opportunity to collect tolls on the network during the years of the extension of the contract).
In spite of these obvious needs, the process of negotiating and gaining final approval for the Relance Plan was a real challenge which involved meeting the various needs of all the stakeholders concerned:
Idea and design of the Relance Plan between the French Government and the concession operators (end of 2012).
Identification of Sanef projects (2013); following meticulous analysis of a number of projects, Sanef closed a complete portfolio of improvement and upgrading projects of varying scope across its entire network:
Submission of dossiers to the European Commission (2014) and final validation by this body, in which it ruled that the Relance Plan is compatible with the idea of State aid (28 October 2014).
Negotiation of additional clauses with the French government (until April 2015), a process which involved the inclusion of new additional agreements:
Firstly, to improve the legal certainty of the French government and protect the contracts of companies operating in the country through the Government’s commitment to offset the toll freezing in 2015 and the increased “Redevance Domaniale” in 2013 by toll increases between 2016 and 2023.
Secondly, to increase balance and transparency in relations between the government and businesses through the contribution by the concession sector to the annual budget of the AFITF (Agence de Financement des Infrastructures de Transport de France) in order to support development of the country’s infrastructure. In lockstep the ARAFER (Autoritt de rde rittFE des activitti et ferroviaires routiiiai) took on new supervisory powers in the toll road concession sector. Finally, a limit on the return allowed for concession operators was introduced based on the cumulative evolution of their operating income since the privatisation of the toll roads in 2006.
Negotiation of contract changes (April/July 2015).
Publication in the Journal Officiel (23 August 2015).
The end point is yet to be written: when with the completion of the work planned up to 2020-2021, the public will be able to enjoy refurbished infrastructure which is safer and more efficient and sustainable.
A win-win solution for all
The main lesson learned for the involved parties is the need to bring together such diverse interests. Only by catering for the requirements of all stakeholders is possible to reach a truly winning solution with benefits for all.
For the French government: