BELGIAN consultancy Transurb Consult, part-owned by SNCB and Brussels transport authority STIB, is to operate the 650 km Trans-Gabon railway under a 20-year concession awarded to a multinational private-sector consortium. The Gabonese government announced on January 6 that it had selected the Transgabonais consortium as preferred bidder to take over Octra. Following approval by the World Bank, the concession was awarded on January 25, and will take effect by August 1.

The bidding contest was launched in March 1997, and technical proposals were invited from 17 firms that had prequalified. Two groups were shortlisted to submit financial proposals last October. Transgabonais is led by French-owned Gabonese timber companies, who are major shippers on the line. They are working with German bank DEG, local banks and Transurb, who will provide 10 experts to manage the rail operations. Rival bidder Gabonrail was led by manganese mining group Comilog (the other main shipper, part owned by Elf and the French government) with Systra and SNCF International.

Under the final deal, Transgabonais will purchase Octra’s rolling stock and other equipment for FFr200m, and pay a concession fee of FFr20m a year for the right to operate the line. The Franceville - Libreville route is currently handling around 3 million tonnes of freight and 200000 passengers a year.

Transurb was involved with the construction of the Trans-Gabon railway in the early 1980s, including fitting out the workshops at Booué and the training school at Franceville, and procuring shunting locos, ballast wagons and pointwork.

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