GESCONTRANS – Modernising road traffic to promote a region's revival

By improving the safety of the Bielsa-Aragnouet tunnel through renovation works and the provision of innovative equipment, the Franco-Spanish transport project GESCONTRANS contributes to sustainable economic and social development and employment in the cross-border region of the central Pyrenees. This has enabled improvements in both traffic conditions and road traffic management, enabling greater accessibility between Spain and France, located on either side of the tunnel.

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South entrance (Spain), Aragnouet-Bielsa Tunnel. Summer South entrance (Spain), Aragnouet-Bielsa Tunnel. Summer

" These improvements have resulted in a considerable increase in accessibility to the Pyrenees, by providing a safer and more reliable connection between France and Spain. The tunnel is currently open 24 hours a day throughout the year, unlike the period prior to the works when the tunnel was closed at night. A user information system has been created to provide information regarding the status of access to the tunnel in real time, via the Consortium's web page. "

Andrés Olloqui, Consortium Director

The cross border Bielsa-Aragnouet tunnel links the Spanish county of Sobrarbe with the French department of Hautes-Pyrénées. Since it opened in 1976, it has been of major benefit to the Spanish province of Huesca, notably in tourism, agriculture and livestock farming. In fact, the region, which boasts several natural parks of international standing, has seen its tourism sector flourish thanks to the tunnel, which also facilitates the movement of primary sector carriers. Likewise, the French ski resorts benefit from an influx of Spanish tourists.

Nevertheless, the tunnel is vulnerable due to climate hazards, closing at night and in winter for reasons of safety and maintenance. This has resulted in direct negative consequences for various sectors (trade, hotels, transport of goods, etc.). Project GESCONTRANS aims to pool efforts in the management, conservation and modernization of the tunnel, to ensure compliance with legislation in both France and Spain, and to increase accessibility to the central Pyrenees, in order to overcome the disadvantages that a remote border location can cause.

Cross-border cooperation and innovation

Thanks to Project GESCONTRANS, maintenance and conservation works at the tunnel have been considerably improved : sealing work, drainage, road works, localized repairs and installation of new equipment, have enabled it to upgrade in line with European and national legislation. Tunnel safety has also been improved with the installation of innovative systems for power supply, ventilation, lighting, signage and risk management, including the installation of video surveillance. Improvements also include an intelligent traffic management system for bi-directional traffic, and height detection devices for vehicles not complying with the new signage. 

The technical management of the tunnel has been centralized, and efforts have been made in relation to communications, with the introduction of a radio communication system, an emergency telephone network, and the creation of a public representation commission, as well as a user information service. The Public Representation Commission was created to inform the public representatives of the progress of works in the areas directly affected. The user information service allows everyone to be informed in real time of conditions in the tunnel, via a dedicated project website and free telephone lines.

All of these efforts have enabled the tunnel to be kept open in optimal safety conditions 24 hours a day, all year round. This has boosted the region's socio-economic development by guaranteeing the reliability of the Bielsa-Aragnouet tunnel, a critical access route for local activities.

Total investment and EU funding

Project GESCONTRANS has received investment totalling EUR 22,000,000. The contribution from (Territorial Operational Cooperation Programme Spain - France - Andorra the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) amounted to EUR 10,747,732 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period, under the INTERREG IV-A France-Spain-Andorra Operational Programme (France-Spain-Andorra Cross-border Cooperation Operational Programme [POCTEFA]). 

Draft date