Inelfe, a joint venture partnership between the Spanish national grid (REE) and its French counterpart (RTE), has awarded a contract to construct an electrical interconnection between the two countries to a consortium led by Eiffage and Dragados.

The consortium - which also includes Setec, Arcadis and Sener - has been tasked with building an 8,5 km tunnel under the Pyrenees to house the high voltage cables for the new 1400 mW interconnector.

The tunnel will measure 3,5 m in diameter and run parallel to the high speed train tunnel which was built by Eiffage in 2008.

Inelfe said two tunnel boring machines would be used, beginning in 2012 to work simultaneously on both sides of the border. The tunnelling is forecast to last about a year.

The interconnector will link the French electricity network to the Spanish network via ports in Junquera in Spain to Montesquieu des Albères in France.

The award of the construction contract follows the contracts signed last December with Prysmian and Siemens to build the necessary cables and converter stations.

Inelfe said the electrical interconnection would increase the capacity of electricity exchange between the two countries from 1400 to 2800 mW and allow power plants to generate at full output.

The project received € 225 million financing from the European Investment Bank and is estimated to cost € 700 million in total.

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