In June 2019, the French State appointed ALIAE (Autoroute de Liaison Atlantique Europe), an Eiffage group subsidiary, to finance, design, develop, widen, upgrade to motorway standards and then operate, service and maintain the future A79.
The RN79, which crosses the Allier department in Central France, is a trunk road running from the village of Sazeret (Allier) in the west to Digoin (Saône-et-Loire) in the east. This 88-kilometre section of road is gradually being widened from two single lanes to a two-lane dual carriageway, with a strong “priority on safety” message. The work is being carried out while the traffic flow continues, demanding considerable efforts by the Eiffage teams to provide comprehensive safety for the existing RN79’s road-users and the workers of Eiffage.
As soon as work began, a partnership was set up with Pôle Emploi, the French governmental unemployment agency, to train and recruit the necessary number of additional workers needed for the project. To date, the project has mobilised more than 1,200 people, including 680 non-subcontractors. More than 165 fixed-term employees have been recruited, 86% of whom live in the Allier department. In September 2021, a year before the end of the project, 271,800 hours of professional training had been recorded, considerably more than the initial target of 190,000 hours (10%).
Landscaping and respect for biodiversity are integral to the project.
Sobriety and elegance form the guiding principle on which the A79 project’s landscaping and architecture are based. The main aim throughout has been to highlight the particular characteristics of the landscapes through which the A79 passes while also bringing a consistent overall style to the infrastructure as a whole. The existing road’s ecological transparency is being improved with the addition of wildlife corridors, while the local flora is also being protected.
Phase 1, which consisted of constructing two new lanes, is currently reaching completion along certain sections of the road, while phase 2 is already well under way to convert the existing two lanes to motorway standards in other sections.
The project includes the construction of major structures, which have already begun to appear:
Work on the metal frame for the new Allier viaduct (begun).
The new Allier viaduct, which is more than 400 metres long, is being built on a metal structure produced and installed by Eiffage Metal. This structure is being constructed in six stages with three project phases for each of the frames, called ‘aprons’. These phases provide an organisational framework for the assembly of the metal beams to progressively produce the aprons spanning the Allier river. Both aprons are positioned on the viaduct columns already constructed and in place. The operation consisted of moving the structure laterally and reducing any friction.
Bourbonnais service area (work in progress).
The A79 motorway’s future service area, which will also be accessible from the RN7, is being built on the land of the Sannes farm in Toulon-sur-Allier. Archaeological studies of the location have found that the most recent buildings date back to the 19th century. In order to protect this landmark in the rural bourbon landscape, a 400 m² barn has been conserved for the construction of the Bourbonnais service area. The building will be renovated to highlight the architectural style of the period. An adjoining 350 m² building will be constructed to provide more space and house a restaurant. This service area will also provide many other facilities, including a fuel station, general and Tesla charging points for electric vehicles, washroom facilities with showers, play and picnic area, WiFi access point, payment terminals for the free-flow smart toll system, etc., as well as a special parking area for motor homes and coaches, a local bus service stop, a 70-space car park for car sharing and a bicycle parking area.
Wildlife corridor in Montbeugny forest (work in progress).
Axelia’s commitments include measures to ensure that its major construction products do not disturb the local wildlife. In the case of the A79, these measures will include a wildlife corridor in the Montbeugny forest to enable various species to cross the A79 motorway in total safety. This corridor will be built over the motorway to provide an “ecological corridor”, with the principal aim of ensuring that the local wildlife does not see the motorway as a break in their natural environment. Consequently, the development work will include grass areas, hedges, trees and pools enabling the service area’s users to travel and rest under the best possible conditions while also protecting many natural species against their predators.
Everyone on the Axelia project is working hard in its final months to make this road link to the Atlantic coast a fluid, safe and innovative motorway for everyone.