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President of the Champagne-Ardenne Regional Council Jean-Paul Bachy and Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Philippe de Fontaine Vive met on Thursday, 15 May 2014, to sign a finance contract for up to EUR 100m for the construction of the A304 motorway between Rocroi and Charleville-Mézières. This 31 km motorway will form part of the E420 European route which will eventually link the city of Reims with Charleroi in Belgium and Brussels, thus creating a third North-South corridor between Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels and the Rhône Valley.

The project being financed is the last component of the “Y ardennais”, a road infrastructure project aimed at opening up the French Ardennes region, in particular the Charleville-Mézières/Sedan urban area. With a total length of 150 km (60 km of expressway and 90 km of motorway), the “Y ardennais” has three components: the section between Reims and Charleville-Mézières, the “Eastern branch” of the Y (the section between Charleville-Mézières/Sedan and the Belgium border, going towards Liège and Luxembourg) and the “Western branch” of the Y (the section between Charleville-Mézières, Rocroi and the Belgium border, going towards Charleroi and Brussels).

The overall construction cost of the A304 is estimated at EUR 363m and the project is being co-financed by the French Government (55%), the Champagne-Ardenne Region (28%) and the Ardennes Department (17 %). The work on this part of the E420 European route is scheduled to be completed by end-2016.

When opened, the A304 motorway will help road users to shorten their journey times and lower their vehicle operating costs, owing to the enhanced traffic capacity and reduced distances. Above all, the new motorway will relieve the RN43 national road and substantially reduce the number of vehicles passing through Charleville-Mézières and the surrounding villages. In addition, the project will generate benefits for the environment by reducing noise pollution and will enhance safety for motorists.

At the signing ceremony, EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive declared, "I am very pleased to visit the Champagne-Ardenne region during our European week to sign the contract for this profoundly European project which will connect the Belgian Ardennes to the French Ardennes and improve the day-to-day living conditions in large towns on both sides of the border. Our commitment today underlines the EIB's concrete activity in the heart of the regions and reflects an EU that is above all practical and intent on enhancing the daily lives of its citizens; an EU that is firmly focussed on the future and is helping the regions with their infrastructure projects and economic development.

Jean-Paul Bachy, President of the Champagne-Ardenne Regional Council, expressed his satisfaction with this new agreement, saying, "The modernisation of the transport networks in Champagne-Ardenne is one of the Region's priorities because we are well aware that high-performance infrastructure is essential in order to sustain our competitiveness at both national and international level. This public, toll-free motorway is a vital and strategic component for opening up the region towards the Benelux and northern Europe. It will contribute to the North-South link from Marseille to Brussels. The EIB is providing us with highly attractive financing conditions and this loan should help us to complete the work on schedule."

The contract signed today by the EIB and the Champagne-Ardenne Region reflects the relationship of great trust that exists between the Regional Council and the Bank. Previous joint operations include the financing of the "TGV Est européen" high-speed railway line and the Reims tramway and motorway bypass. The new agreement echoes the EIB’s unprecedented activity to support projects promoting growth and employment in France, for which the Bank has already dedicated EUR 7.8bn in 2013 (80% more than in 2012).