CONTRACTORS are to be selected over the next few months for construction of the 1420 km rail link between Alice Springs and Darwin, following the announcement on June 6 of a preferred bidder for the A$1·2bn build-own-operate concession. Australia’s federal government, together with South Australia and Northern Territory, selected Asia-Pacific Transport from the three consortia who submitted final bids on March 31 (RG 3.99 p132).

Asia Pacific is led by Brown & Root with Australian engineering groups Kinhill, John Holland and Macmahon, Hong Kong’s Hutchison Port Holdings and US short line operator Genesee & Wyoming, which owns Australian Southern; Bankers Trust is acting as advisor. The three governments have each pledged A$100m towards the project, and Asia Pacific will contribute A$650m.

Consortium spokesman Andrew Fletcher says the aim is to complete contractual negotiations by November, so that construction can get under way early in 2000. Work is expected to take around three years. Opening in 2003 will be linked to the start of a weekly shipping service from Darwin to Hong Kong. The 50-year concession includes rights to operate the existing line south from Alice Springs to Tarcoola and Adelaide. n