IN THE PRESENCE of President Néstor Kirchner, bids to upgrade the route between Buenos Aires and Mendoza (RG 9.07 p524) for use by trains travelling at up to 160 km/h were opened on September 18. The turnkey contract including civil, track and signalling work to create a 'high performance' line, as well as the supply of rolling stock, attracted four bids.

CAF is reported to be bidding with Roggio, Cartellone, Comsa and Siemens, while a second consortium is formed of Corporación América (p601), Helport, Cometrans and Lesco. Ferromel has joined forces with Ferrovías, Emepa and Odebrecht, while members of the Veloxia consortium which is preferred bidder for the Buenos Aires – Córdoba high-speed project (RG 8.07 p504) – Alstom, Isolux Corsán and Iecsa – are also reported to have submitted a bid.

Final technical bids are due by December 4 and financial offers will be opened on December 27. According to the government, work to be completed within 48 months will enable one daytime and one overnight service to be operated every day over the 1 058 km route 'with only three technical stops'. Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido said that this and other high speed projects marked a complete reversal of policy which had seen the long-distance passenger train almost disappear from Argentina.

With Kirchner's wife standing as a candidate in presidential elections due to take place on October 28, Clarín reported on September 16 that the government was aiming to complete within 40 days final negotiations with Veloxia for the Córdoba project. The paper said that French bank Société Générale had agreed to provide 60% of the construction cost in the form of a 15-year US$1·7bn loan to the government bearing interest at 10% a year.