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France's most expensive road - €1.6b for just 12km

Ben McPartland · 9 Apr 2014, 10:23

Published: 09 Apr 2014 10:23 GMT+02:00

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It has been labelled “the most expensive road in France” – with the cost being unprecedented.

That’s not perhaps surprising when the €1.66 billion ($2.29 billion) price of building the new highway works out €133 million per kilometre, or even €133,000 per metre, the magazine Challenges reported.

And those costs may have even been underestimated.

This of course, as the price suggests, is no ordinary road. There will be three lanes in each direction and it will be built to withstand 150 km/h hurricane winds and waves of up to ten metres.

The highway is to be built on the French island of Reunion, in the Indian Ocean and has been described by Didier Robert, the region's president as an “absolute necessity”.

Local economist Jean- Philippe Pierre said the road will bring the French overseas territory, which makes up one of France’s 27 regions, “into the 21st century”.

The motorway will link Reunion's capital of Saint-Denis to the island’s port and will be built on columns above the sea, as the image above illustrates.

The project, heralded for its “technical prowess”, will take seven years to complete.

Reunion’s Robert says the road link is necessary because the current route around the foot of the cliffs is forced to close "around 40 times a year" because of landslides and waves.

Story continues below…

Perhaps unsurprisingly the grand scheme has drawn the ire of environmentalists as well as transport groups, who between them have filed five separate lawsuits to try to derail the project.

And who will foot the eye-watering bill for the highway?

With Reunion being the EU’s outermost region, Paris is hoping Brussels will stump up some of the cash, but the onus will be on the region of Reunion to pay for the road, which Challenges magazine estimates could take authorities 45 years.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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