FINAL BIDS are due this month for the 66% stake in Estonian National Railways currently up for sale, and the government hopes to select the winning bidder by the end of the year. Bidders are being asked to offer an initial payment and commitments to network upgrading totalling around US$400m. Four consortia prequalified for the sale following the 43:40 parliamentary vote in September approving the privatisation process. Three groups went to second stage bidding on October 23, each combining Estonian and international firms.

Baltic Rail Services is owned 50% by local interests, 25% by Rail World Inc and 25% by British infrastructure maintenance contractor Jarvis. Another grouping of local businesses is backed by SJ International and British facilities management company Serco. The third bidder, now known as Rail Estonia, is led by US shortline group RailAmerica, with Wabtec Corp, Union Switch & Signal and logistics consultant Kingsley Group. This bid was originally fronted by CSX, but the Class I operator pulled out on September 20.

The Ministry of Transport & Communications confirmed in September that it would be inviting new tenders next year for the domestic inter-city services which are currently operated over EVR tracks by Edelaraudtee (RG 7.00 p435).