The European Investment Bank (EIB) is granting a loan of EUR 110 million to SOFICO (Société wallonne de financement complémentaire des infrastructures) for partial reconstruction of the E411 and E25 motorways.

The finance and guarantee contracts were signed on 25 May 2004 by Philippe Maystadt, EIB President, Michel Daerden, Vice-President of the Walloon Government with responsibility for Infrastructure and Public Works, and Georges Pire and Jacques Dehalu, Chairman and Managing Director of Sofico respectively.

The schemes supported by the EIB loan consist of the repair and partial rebuilding of the E411 and E25 motorways linking Luxembourg to Brussels and Liège (more specifically a 60 km stretch of the E411 between Habay and Tellin and a 67 km section of the E25 between the E411-E25 junction near Neufchâteau and Werbomont-Ferrières on the way to Liège).

These works are essential owing to the marked degradation of the road surface on these sections (caused by so-called punch-out), creating a safety hazard and threatening the unavoidable closure of the two motorways within the next 5 years if no action is taken. In the absence of alternative routes of the same dimensions, these are key links between two capital cities (Brussels and Luxembourg), which place Brussels and Wallonia on major European motorway corridors' and especially facilitate freight connections with the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. These North-South arterial routes carry a large volume of international as well as commuter traffic, with heavy goods vehicles accounting for more than 25% and traffic levels reaching up to 34 000 vehicles per day on certain sections (e.g. between Neufchâteau and Arlon).

The E411 and the E25 form part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and are therefore eligible for EIB financing under the European Action for Growth, allowing the EIB to increase its financial support from 50 to 70% of the total project cost. This loan is important since it will accelerate the project implementation phase while ensuring that the Walloon Region's outlay is not stretched beyond what is currently budgeted and thus stays within the necessary margins for the general upkeep of Wallonia's road network.

This is the third financing operation concluded between the EIB and Sofico. In 1995, the EIB committed EUR 216 million in support of the E25-E40 to Liège link and the Ghislenghien-Hacquegnies section of the A8 motorway (missing link of the Brussels-Lille motorway in western Hainaut). These projects, now completed, also helped to improve traffic flows on major European communications axes.

The EIB, the European Union's long-term financing institution, promotes the attainment of the EU's objectives, particularly the creation of transport, telecommunications and energy transfer infrastructure of Europe-wide importance facilitating the free movement of people, goods and information in Europe. In the last five years, the EIB has channelled EUR 41.6 billion into developing communications infrastructure with a European dimension, including over 30 billion for transport projects and 6.7 billion for telecommunications schemes.