Contract Close for PPP R4 West and East in Ghent between De Werkvennootschap and BRAVO4, including participation of four BESIX Group entities

8 May 2024

The collaboration between De Werkvennootschap (Flemish government) and the BRAVO4 consortium for the R4WO project is official. Today, 7 May 2024, saw the signing of the contract documents whereby the Flemish government, through De Werkvennootschap, will start the collaboration with BRAVO4 for the conversion of the R4 East and West in the north of Ghent. BRAVO4 is made up of BESIX, EPICo, I4B – The Belgian Infrastructure Fund, RID PPP (Rebel and Abrdn) and Stadsbader. The Flemish government approved the proposed award decision including the DBFM agreement between the two parties on 22 March. As of now, BRAVO4 is in charge of the conversion of the R4 East and West north of Ghent through a DBFM, which includes the design (Design), construction (Build), financing (Finance) and maintenance for 30 years (Maintain).

Creating a safer port area

De Werkvennootschap (i.e. the Flemish Government organisation that supports large and complex mobility projects) and BRAVO4 (the consortium chosen to realise the project) will start the actual works for the R4 East and West conversion in 2024. This Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is different from a traditional tender. The consortium is financing the project itself and will receive an availability fee from the Flemish government for 30 years when the construction phase is completed. This allows the government to select a party based on more qualitative criteria, such as design ownership, execution techniques, life cycle approach, mitigation measures and environmental management.

Partnership with BRAVO4

In the summer of 2021, the BRAVO4 consortium was named as the preferred bidder. They submitted the best value for money bid to carry out the DBFM contract. In 2022, BRAVO4 refined the basic designs. BRAVO4 has since obtained final and executable environmental permits for those refined plans, so the DBFM contract was recently awarded and the DBFM agreement could now be concluded, together with the financing agreements (contract close and financial close). The financing was put together through a Debt Funding Competition. A syndicate of Belgian and international banks and insurers are financing the project. On 7 May, all contracts were signed and the finance package was closed (Contract and Financial Close).

The consortium will start preparatory works and some quick interventions this month. In August 2025, larger work will commence on the 22 intervention points and junctions along the R4. For a smooth proceeding of the various works, preparatory (utility) works have already started. The entire conversion will be completed by early 2031.

Vision for the project

The new R4 will connect environment, people and nature. The project will make traffic on the R4 smoother and safer, and the surrounding neighbourhoods quieter and more accessible. On the western side, this concerns the section of the R4 between the N9 in Wondelgem and the E34 in Zelzate, and on the eastern side from the 'Eurosilo' junction in Oostakker to Wachtebeke. With this conversion, the Flemish government is investing in smoother and safer road traffic with liveable residential areas and safe and comfortable cycle paths.

It is a major investment (about €715 million, excluding VAT) in liveability on and around the R4. In the future, the number of slip roads reduces and motorised traffic drives to the main intersections. New bridges, tunnels and underpasses will allow local traffic to pass under or over the R4. This ensures smoother traffic flow and less chance of dangerous situations between road users. It will also make the connection between residential areas on either side of the R4 a lot safer.

The bridges and underpasses will become part of the public space for many years. A beautiful and functional design that blends into its surroundings was therefore chosen.

Comment from Stijn Quaghebeur, chairman of De Werkvennootschap’s Executive Board: “We are proud to launch Belgium's largest DBFM project. We are confident that, together with BRAVO4, we will deliver a success story for the R4 West and East. We are happy that we are now on the brink of starting the conversion works. For port operators, residents, traffic and the wider environment, this conversion will make a big, positive difference, for motorised traffic, but certainly also for cyclists. With our investments for bicycle traffic, this project involves the realisation of two 15-kilometre-long stretches of uninterrupted cycling infrastructure along and across the R4. This will not happen overnight, of course. We will guide all stakeholders through the works, which will last until early 2031. Together with BRAVO4, we will manage the communication with all stakeholders.

Comment from Günther Muyshondt, BRAVO4 Project Director: “BESIX, EPICo, I4B – The Belgian Infrastructure Fund, RRID PPP and Stadsbader are proud to launch this project together with De Werkvennootschap. R4WO stands for connection: by ensuring safe traffic, we connect neighbourhoods, communities, people and nature. As a consortium, we are putting our full weight behind this vision. There will be intense work in the coming years, but the result will be a safer, more easily accessible and more sustainable R4 environment.”

With its track record in successfully delivering complex DBFM, BOOT and PPP projects in Europe and the Middle East, BESIX is the ideal partner in this complex endeavour, even more so since it can leverage its one-stop-shop approach that integrates the diverse capabilities of BESIX Invest (investment), BESIX Construction (civil engineering), BESIX Infra (road infrastructure, utilities) and BESIX Unitec (electromechanical equipment, tunnel installations). 

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