The 2011/12/06 at 06:30
Alexandre T. Analis
In France, the road construction market is worth 22 billion euros, with 8 billion euros generated overseas. The renown enjoyed by French technology in this sector worldwide is also expressed in terms of jobs: 95,000 employees in France, around 50,000 overseas. This prowess can firstly be explained by the success of Colas and Eurovia, two French groups that are respectively the number one and two in the global market, ahead of Hochtief AG (Germany), China Communications Con. Grp. Ltd (China) and Strabag SE (Austria). Present in about fifty countries, dominant in Europe and Africa as well as serious challengers in North America, Colas and Eurovia partly owe their success to the French system favouring public-private partnerships while backing innovation via national competitions and the export of French savoir-faire.
Added to this context is healthy coordination between different sectors: raw materials, techniques, high-performance research centres. “We have a dual approach: optimising products and concepts, and always adapting roads to local traffic, components used, the climate… The aim is to construct sustainable roads,” explains Pierre Calvin, Director of Forecasting and Institutional Relations for the Colas group and President of the Association Technique de la Route (ATR or Road Technical Association). Apart from the obvious economic stakes, sustainable roads represent important social and environmental stakes. “It should be admitted that while the Grenelle de l’Environnment (French Environmental Round Table) might not have been perfect, it enabled progress in this sector,” comments Yves Krattinger, President of the Departmental Council and Senator of the Haute-Saône and President of the Institut des Routes, des Rues et des Infrastructures de la Mobilité (IDRRIM or Institute for Roads, Streets and Mobility Infrastructures).
Born from the voluntary agreement of 25 March 2009 signed by the State, the Assembly of Departments of France, the National Federation for Public Works, the Union of French Road Industry Syndicates, the French Professional Syndicate of Building Labourers and Syntec Ingénierie, this organism offers an ambitious programme for the sector between now and 2020. Announced measures include the reuse or conversion of 100 % of extracted materials, the 100 % recycling of roads, the reduction of emissions of gases with greenhouse effects by 33 %, the establishment of biodiversity-related methodologies, the improvement of road safety during works and R&D and local declensions of this national commitment.
This last point is important: in France, the State only manages 11,500 km of roads, compared with 385,000 km under departmental management. More generally, the whole road industry seems to wish to change its image. “The Intermat expo (16 to 21 April 2012, Parc des Expositions de Paris Nord Villepinte, editorial note) will be, I think, a good opportunity to demonstrate the value of French technology in the sector,” states Jacques Bonvallet, Sales and Marketing Manager at Fayat. “This event will also allow professionals to see the initial fallout of the Grenelle de l’Environnement and to discover the progress made in ergonomics and the fight against musculoskeletal disorders.”