PREQUALIFICATION bids have been called by July 23 for construction of Rio de Janeiro metro Line 3. Costed at US$800m, the project was formally approved in mid-April by Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The project will be awarded as a 25-year design-build-operate concession, with an option for a further 25-year extension. An auction of the concession is scheduled for September 3.

Linking Largo da Carioca in the city with Niterói and São Gonçalo, the line will be 22 km long. There will be a 3·5 km tunnel under Guanabara Bay reaching a depth of 30m below the sea bed. The federal and state governments will contribute up to 50% of the cost, with the concessionaire expected to raise the remainder. Construction is expected to get under way in 2002, with inauguration anticipated in December 2005.

Line 3 is expected to carry around 650000 passengers a day, relieving the existing Rio - Niterói road bridge which is suffering from severe congestion. Studies estimate that at this level of traffic, the line will be profitable at a fare of R$1·80.