The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, announces a loan of EUR 190 million to Cofiroute to finance the construction of the final section of the A28 European motorway in western central France.

The finance contract was signed in Le Mans on 14 October 2005 by Henri Stouff, Chairman and Chief Executive of Cofiroute, and Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President, in the presence of Stéphane Bouillon, Prefect of Sarthe.

This loan is contributing to the construction of a 57.5 km-long section of the two-lane A28 motorway between Ecommoy (Sarthe) and the junction with the A10 motorway north of Tours.

The construction of the A28, which has long been scheduled under the French National Roads Master Plan, will complete the motorway corridor along France's Atlantic seaboard, facilitating trade between north-west Europe (Germany, Benelux, United Kingdom) and the Iberian Peninsula.

This network will contribute to the economic development of the regions through which the motorway passes and link the major sea and river ports of the North Sea, English Channel and Atlantic. In addition, the A28 will provide through traffic with an alternative to crossing the Paris region. Lastly, the completion of this motorway will significantly improve the traffic conditions on Route Nationale 138, a trunk road that currently has a very high accident rate.

Cofiroute has embarked on an ambitious investment programme: its existing inter-city motorway network of 928 km will be increased to 1091 km by August 2008 (i.e. +18%). The cost of these new sections will amount to some EUR 1.4 billion. Cofiroute is also in the process of completing the A86 orbital motorway to the west of Paris, a project to which the EIB has contributed EUR 400 million. These works currently make Cofiroute one of the leading contracting authorities in France. In parallel, the company will invest an additional EUR 500 million in its existing motorway network over the period 2004-2008.

The EIB has advanced several previous loans to help finance numerous publicly or privately operated sections of the motorway network in France. Among the major projects supported over the past 10 years are the A16 (from Boulogne to Ile-de-France), A20 (Brive to Montauban), A29 (Le Havre to Saint-Quentin), A39 (Dijon to Bourg-en-Bresse), A43 (link to the Fréjus road tunnel), A51 (Grenoble to Marseille), A66 (Toulouse to Pamiers) and A83 (Nantes to Niort) motorways as well as the completion of the A86 orbital motorway to the west of Paris (with Cofiroute). The Bank has also contributed to the construction of the Millau Viaduct, the completion of the Paris-Francilienne Nord link (from Cergy-Pontoise to Roissy Airport), the rehabilitation of the Mont Blanc tunnel (French section), the upgrading of the RD 929 (France-Spain link) and improvements to the road networks in Réunion and Guadeloupe.

The EIB has become the benchmark source of financing for transport infrastructure in Europe. Building the TENs (Trans-European Transport Networks) and their access networks is, moreover, one of the Bank's priorities. The goal is to promote the economic and social integration of the Union by facilitating the free movement of people, goods and information and opening up the less favoured regions. Between 1993 and 2005, the EIB lent EUR 63 billion in support of transport TENs - chiefly rail, road and motorway infrastructure but also port and airport projects - to underpin the construction of the TENs and their access networks.