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Brazil revives bullet-train project

Brazil’s government has announced the revival of a $16.5 billion high-speed railway project that would link Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

The National Agency of Terrestrial Transport, or ANTT, published the details of the process for awarding the contract on Thursday. The process will include a public consultation phase, giving people until Sept. 24 to make their “suggestions.”

    Interested companies will have until April 30, 2013, to submit their bids, which will be opened a month later.

The bidding process will be divided into two phases.

The company or consortium that will manufacture the trains and run the system will be selected first and then a contract will be awarded for building the railway lines, stations and the remaining infrastructure needed for the train’s operation, the ANTT said.

The agency estimates the total cost of the project at 33 billion reais ($16.5 billion).

The project was first announced nearly four years ago and initially formed part of the preparations for Brazil’s role as host nation of the 2014 soccer World Cup.

But three previous bidding processes were declared void after the interested companies rejected certain demands of the Brazilian government, which insisted on keeping fares low.

The most recent attempt to get the project off the ground was made in July 2011.

Companies from South Korea, France, Spain, Japan and Germany have thus far shown interest in the project to build the 510-kilometer (315-mile) high-speed rail line connecting Brazil’s two largest cities.

In recent months, Spanish officials have informed Brazil’s government that they will promote the participation in the auction of companies such as Ineco and Renfe, which have vast experience in high-speed rail transport.

Authorities estimate that the bullet train, which would be the first of its kind in Latin America, would transport some 33 million people in its first year of operations and as many as 100 million in 2030.

Experts say the project is complex because it would involve construction of 90.9 kilometers (56 miles) of tunnels and another 107.8 kilometers (67 miles) of bridges and viaducts to traverse the rivers and mountainous terrain that separate Sao Paulo from Rio de Janeiro.

The revival of the project was announced a week after the unveiling of an ambitious 133 billion reais ($65.5 billion) plan to improve Brazil’s infrastructure and spur the country’s sputtering economy.

The plan, which will involve awarding private firms concessions for the construction of nearly 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles) of highways and 10,000 kilometers of railways, is aimed at improving links between productive areas and the country’s seaports and airports.

President Dilma Rousseff said in announcing the plan on Aug. 15 that Brazil has become the world’s sixth-largest economy despite a lot of “bottlenecks” that must be removed to put the country on a path to “accelerated and sustained” growth.

Transport Minister Paulo Sergio Passos said that same day that a new public company would be created to auction a license for the high-speed rail line linking Rio de Janeiro Sao Paulo

Eike Batista, Brazil’s richest person, expressed interest in the latest investment plan, saying “Brazil has barely invested in infrastructure over the past 20 years and therefore this ‘mega-package’ will be fantastic for the country and for business leaders.” EFE

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