Congolese Minister for Planning Pierre Moussa expects to sign contracts shortly for the privatisation of the 509 km Congo-Ocean Railway between Brazzaville and Pointe Noir. Shortlisted consortia NLPI-Spoornet, Sheltam-Mvela, Rites and Comazar-SNCF International were due to present their final technical bids in January.

Look for Mozambique national railway CFM to announce the winner of a contract to upgrade the 575 km Sena line between Beira and Moatize and the Malawi border. With work to be completed this year on the initial 90 km from Dondo to Muanza, CFM Chairman Rui Fonseca announced in January that the World Bank is to confirm by June that it will contribute US$85m towards the US$240m cost.

The US Congress has started debating a six-year transport investment programme to replace the TEA-21 legislation that was due to expire in September 2003. The Senate has approved a six-year package valued at $318bn whereas the Bush administration’s Safetea package only envisages $256bn, a 21% increase on the $218bn TEA-21 package. The bill being debated in the House of Representatives provides $375bn, and negotiations to balance the three options are expected to take another four months.

Uganda Railways Corp confirmed on February 19 that the governments of Uganda and Kenya had agreed to invite bids this year for a joint concession to operate both URC and KRC, following last year’s decision by Tanzania to push ahead with a separate concession to run TRC.

The Israeli government has appointed US consultancy Mercator Transport Group to undertake feasibility studies for the Suez landbridge rail link between Eilat and Ashdod, which would cost around US$1bn to build and take three to five years.

German Transport Minister Dr Wolfgang Stolpe announced on January 21 that the federal research budget would provide €52m for construction of a prototype three-section shuttle maglev trainset, safeguarding jobs at the Transrapid centre of competence in Kassel during 2004-05.

Ircon International is negotiating with the Philippines government for a concession to build the Iligan - Zamboanga section of the proposed Mindanao rail network.

Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski has backed proposals to develop a 1770 km railway connecting the Alaska Railroad with BC Rail at a projected cost of US$3bn.