A consortium led by Bouygues has won a €1.8bn ($2.3bn) contract from French rail infrastructure manager Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) to build the Nîmes-Montpellier rail link in the south of the country.

The public-private-partnership (PPP) consortium includes Bouygues Construction, with Bouygues Travaux Publics as the lead firm, DTP Terrassement, Colas Rail and Colas Midi-Méditerranée, Alstom Transport and SPIE batignolles, along with investors Meridiam and Fideppp.

The 25-year contract includes the design, financing, construction, operation, servicing and maintenance of new freight and passenger rail infrastructure.

The 60km rail link will bridge the gap on the planned high-speed rail line between Paris and Barcelona. After its expected completion in 2017, the line will reduce journey times between Nimes and Montpellier by 20 minutes.

The concession also includes a 10km link with the rail freight corridor on the right bank of the Rhône and three other connections to the existing network at Jonquières, Lattes and Manduel that will also total 10km of track.

The contract is part of France’s €13bn PPP programme to extend its high-speed rail network.

The works will be carried out by the consortium members and their engineering consultants SYSTRA, Setec and SGTE. Many small regional businesses will also be brought in to assist in the project. The Bouygues-led consortium beat Vinci to win the bid while France-based Eiffage withdrew from the bid after winning a €3.4bn rail project to link Brittany with the Loire Valley.

The consortium is working on financial closing in order to begin work on the project in the first half of 2012.