All three groups chosen to submit bids by March 31 to build and operate the 1410 km railway from Alice Springs to Darwin have recruited new members, raising hopes that the project may finally go ahead. The successful bidder would also lease the line from Alice to Tarcoola on the Trans-Australian Railway.

French contractor Bouygues has joined the Southern Cross Consortium; it would share construction with Henry Walker Group. Asia-Pacific Transportation, which includes Brown & Root and US short line Genesee & Wyoming, has added Barclay Mowlem and John Holland. Perkins Shipping of Darwin has joined Northlink, the third consortium.

The Federal, South Australian and Northern Territory governments have each promised A$100m in grant, but that is the only subsidy on offer. Barry Coulter, Northern Territory Minister for Railways, said on January 19 that the bids opened on March 31 would ’really tell all’ about whether A$300m of public funding was sufficient.