France's national waterway authority has named a design-firm team to plan and manage construction and commissioning of what will be an estimated $5-billion new canal to transport freight in northern Europe.

The 107-kilometer-long Canal Seine Nord will link the River Seine basin from north of Paris, near Compeigne, to the River Schleidt, near Lille, to form a key part of a Trans-European Multi-Modal Corridor. The 54-meter-wide by 4.5-m-deep canal will handle vessels up to 4,400-tonnes capacity and require 55 million cu m of earthworks

The waterway authority Voies Navigables de France awarded the 12-year contract, valued at $90 million, to a joint venture of Netherlands-based Royal Haskoning-DHV and Paris-based SETEC Group. The team will cover the project’s planning, procurement, design, construction supervision and commissioning.

Approved in 2008, the canal project initially was planned as a public-private partnership. But that plan, estimated at $8 billion, was abandoned after the banking crisis.

The French government, local governments and the European Union now will fund the work to be procured on a design-build basis.

Eight years of construction is set to start in 2017. Work includes six new locks with water-level differences up to 26 m, says a Royal Haskoning-DHV spokesman.

He termed the canal "an incredible project with major integral design challenges," including technical and environmental issues and stakeholder interactions.