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Millau Viaduct Project Management

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    The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed road bridge which spans the valley of the river Tarn situated alongside the Township of Millau in Southern France. The viaduct standing over 343 meters tall was the world’s tallest cable-stayed bridge and was proposed as the missing link in the A75 auto route that connects Paris in the north to Perpignan in the south. The Millau Viaduct was the product of 17 years of ideas, proposals, planning and designs that resulted in shaving 40 miles off the former route through the region, a boom in local economic development and the completion of one of the world’s most well managed and constructed projects.

    The initial objectives of the project are to provide a link in the national and international road network and to promote economic development and tourism locally by improving access to the connection of Clermont Ferrand and Beziers on the A75 highway. This in turn will serve to relieve the severe traffic congestion due to large quantity of traffic currently passing through the town of Millau.

    Stakeholders and Management:

    •  Environmentalist
    •  Residents
    • Government of France (GoF)
    •  Local Government authorities: The commune of Millau and the Grands Causses Grouping of Communes * The Arrondissement Interdepartemental des Ouvrages d’Art (AIOA) was given responsibility for monitoring the project by the State. It reports to the Infrastructure Directorate of the Aveyron, which manages the construction works of the A75. * Roads users
    • Media

    Project Charter: Project charter is produced with the initial scope being the feasibility studies into the different routes of the A75 highway. This initial scope will be redefined as the project progresses through each planning stage. Other areas considered are economic development and environmental impact research.

    Planning Project Analysis: Construct a toll-free motorway by connecting route through the Tarn Valley to connect French towns of Clermont Ferrand and Beziers along the A75 Highway.


    • Reduce congestion in Millau
    •  Promote economic development and tourism
    • Offer major international highway

    French authorities AIOA commission studies into the solution of the congestion within Millau and possible routes of connecting the A75 highway. Four possible solutions presented:

     ‘Eastern Option’ – construction of bypass to the east of the township of Millau and which also included two large bridges over the rivers Tarn and Dourbie. This option did not provide access to Millau, and residents protested strongly for protecting Dourbie from the A75. 2. ‘Western Option’ – construction of bypass to the west of Millau Township with the construction of four bridges. This option also did not provide access to Millau and was met by strong protest from local villages. 3. ‘RN9 option’ – Directly through Millau from the North to cross the Tarn and then join Larzac by travelling south. This proposal hit various technical difficulties, with the major concern of the gradient being too dangerous for freight traffic, and the impact on the urban environment. 4. ‘Median option’ – Starts at the St Germain villages in the north, cross the Tarn to the Franc and upwards towards Larzac. The feasibility of the ‘Median option’ was considered most suitable and selected by the GoF, (see App: Fig (1)) as it directly avoided multiple geological problems, lower risks to safety, absolute minimal environmental impact risks and reduced overall costs considerably. Redefining Project Analysis: Further technical studies were required to consider the most appropriate design of bridging the Tarn Valley. The decision was separated into four stages:

    1.  Decision of ‘high’ or ‘low’ bridge solution
    2. Definition of Project
    3.  Competition for design of project
    4.  Overall selection of final project

    The committee proposed that the design was to be put to a competition between five independent project teams consisting of engineers and design architects. These teams where given five proposals for the viaduct with five defined project objectives that were to be followed in each proposal. His approach was designed to gain further evaluation on already proposed designs, instead of receiving freshly proposed designs. The proposals were submitted and critiqued by an independent committee setup within SETRA.

    Selection of design: In July of 1996 the party in charge of executing the work composed of Government representatives, Local officials, Engineers and Director of Roads selected the multiple cable-stayed viaduct as the most appropriate solution based on the project scope. The viaduct had the lowest cost across all proposals and also shortest build time. The architectural design was of the highest quality and in keeping with the local aesthetics. Technical research was continued by SETRA with main project scope directed at:

    •  Geology
    •  Foundations
    •  Design of pier and deck
    • Maintenance, operation
    • User’s behaviour
    • Building methods
    • Construction management
    • Cost analysis

    Project Deliverables: The decision by the GoF to build and deliver the project under a concession/BFOT type of procurement was first announced in May 1998. Tender: Applications for tender were published December 1999. Candidates were to provide a proposal by the 24th of January covering specific technical and financial criteria.

    Judging Proposals: Analysis of proposals was divided into legal, financial, and technical areas. The judging committee interviewed bidders and announced EIFFAGE’s expected concessionaire.

    Main features of concession contract:

    •  Concession is at the own risk and own profits
    •  Total period of concession is 78 years (3 years build, 75 years operation)
    • Respect in relation to original architectural design
    • Development of technical aspects i.e. steel or concrete
    • Toll rate to be approved by Minister of Transport
    • Durability of structure for 120 years

    Local economic development: The state required 1% of project budget to be allocated to the economic development of the region, these initiatives were materialised through:

    • Construction of two industrial development sites
    • Equal re-allocation of 80% of the professional taxes generated by the two developments among the communities in order to avoid inequalities.

    Construction Plan:

    •  March 2011: Preparatory phase – develop operating procedures, design
      task checklists, materials validation processes.
    • October 2001: EIFFAGE begins construction
    • 14th December 2001: the French Ministry of Transport puts down the first stone of the bridge * January 2002: beginning of piers and abutment construction * September 2002: beginning of assembling the steel deck
    • 15 December 2003: completion of the pier construction
    • 26 March 2003: launching of the steel deck
    •  25 May 2004: joining the two sections of the deck
    • October-November 2004: installation of pylons, setting up of 154 cable stays and dismantling of temporary piers
    • 14 December 2004: the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, inaugurates the Millau Viaduct.


    Quality Assurance: The construction was overseen and independently monitored, coordinated, advised and audited by Project managing group Setec and SNCF, which was completely independent to the EIFFAGE company. Setec were responsible for testing components of the structure to ensure that quality standards where being adhered to and grant permission to move to the next phase of the project. Setec had authority to stop work on-site if these quality standards were not met.

    Construction Project Team: Construction of the Viaduct was to be handled by several arms of the EIFFAGE Company which included: EIFFAGE construction – in charge of construction of the piers, abutments and toll facility EIFFEL Company – to construct steel deck and pylons.

    Forclum – undertake electrical works. Appia Research – development and application of the deck coating.


    Environmental Control: Two engineers who specialised in environmental and water quality were sanctioned for the duration of project. A stringent Environmental Protection Plan (EPP) was implemented from the outset of the project. The EPP identified the projects different pollution risks, described preventative arrangements, and organized regular on and off-site inspections. The viaduct also included a system for collection and processing rainwater and other waste water which would accumulate during road washing operations and run off.

    Off-site management: Eiffage planned the manufacture and logistics of a number of components of the construction in off-site factories at Lauterbourg and Fos-ur-mer. The manufacture of components of the deck were sequenced in accordance with their requirement at the construction this allowed for smooth progress of the project as well as to not exceed the storage capacity onsite.

    Safety: The goal was set from the commencement of the project for zero accidents. This was achieved by the appointment of two safety officers to oversee all safety arrangements on site.

    Sensor Control: Sensors were fitted into the piers, deck, pylons and cable stays as the construction on site progressed. This allowed the 24/7 monitor of the most minute changes in all the members on the site.

    Close: Extensive testing by a fleet of 30 heavy trucks weighing a total of 1000 tons was used at the close of the project over a three-day period. The tests were used to analyse over 20 types of different loadings. Strict guidelines were implemented in the revegetation of service roads used during construction.
    Operations and maintenance management plans produces and implemented from close of project.

    Summary of outcomes/lessons learnt: With a project of this scale it is almost assumed that cost and time estimates will be increase over the life of the project. However in the case of the Millau Viaduct, the project was delivered three months ahead of time and under budget. This represented a great success especially because the project was concession-based. The only delay that was experienced throughout the construction period was that from the weather which stopped construction on a few occasions when wind speeds reach the allowable safety level of 70 km/h. Since the inauguration of the Viaduct by French President Jacques Chirac on December 17, 2004 the town of Millau had noticed an increase in local tourism. Two new hotels have been built with two others in the process of being built. The Millau Viaduct set new world standards in planning, design and engineering. The viaduct has become the jewel of the A75 highway with traffic forecast to be approximately 25,000 vehicles in the summer months and 10,000 vehicles per day for the rest of the year.


    1. Coste, J 2010, The Millau Viaduct, Royal Aeronautical Society, Hamburg, viewed March 12 2013, <>
    2. Godfrain, J 2006, The Millau Viaduct Larzac’s Eiffel Tower, Ecole de Paris du Management, Paris, viewed March 14 2013, <>
    3. Kennard, M, Smith, D, Piggot, J, Newiss, I, Greenhalgh, J, McDermott, J, Bell, E, Grubb, S, Battman, M, Howe, M 2009, Civil engineering procedure, 6th edn, Institution of Civil Engineers, Thomas Telford, London.
    4. Latts, E 2010, Mega Transport Projects planning, appraisal and delivery: A review of case study experiences and research findings, World Conference Transport Research, Lisbon, Portugal, viewed 10 March 2013, <>
    5. Mahmoud, K 2003, Recent Developments in Bridge Engineering, Swets & Zeitlinger, Netherlands.
    6. Mangus, A 2005, France’s Millau Orthotropic Steel Viaduct: Start of the Art Bridge Launching, STRUCTURE Magazine, viewed March 12 2013, <>
    7. Omega Centre, 2007, Project Profile: Millau Viaduct, Bartlett School of Planning: Centre of Mega Projects in Transport and Development, Bartlett, viewed March 11, <>
    8. Prasad, N & Govind, S 2006, The Millau Viaduct Project: Creating an Engineering Marvel, ICFAI Center for Management Research, Nagarjuna Hills, viewed 9 March 2013,
    9. Saxton, J L 2007, Report on the Millau Viaduct, Proceedings of Bridge Engineering Conference, Univertsity of Bath, Bath, UK, viewed March 14 2013, <>
    10. Smith, N.J. (Ed.), 2008, Engineering Project Management, 3rd Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, Victoria.
    11. Steelbridge, 2004, Steel bridges extend structural limits Millau, Steelbridge, viewed 9 March 2013, <>

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