MEXICO: President Felipe Calderon announced the start of tendering for a 45-year build and operate concession covering the planned US$5bn Punta Colonet port and railway project on August 28.

The centrepiece will be a container port for trans-Pacific cargo which is to be built on the lightly populated west coast of the Baja California peninsula, about 240 km south of the US border.

Four routes have been proposed for a railway running around 350 km northeast through the rugged mountains of the peninsula to a connection with the US rail network at one of Calexico in California, El Paso in Texas, or Yuma or Nogales in Arizona.

The port will have an initial annual capacity of two million containers, with expansion to six million projected within 15 years. At least three groups are thought to be preparing bids. The winner will be announced in 2009, and opening is planned for 2012-14. Union Pacific had previously joined with a Chinese partner to prepare an offer, but the agreement collapsed last year and a UP spokesman said the railway will only be monitoring the project.