TANZANIA: March 9 is the deadline for shortlisted bidders to submit proposals for a 25-year concession to operate the Tanzania Railways Corp network. Financial bids are to be opened on April 27, and the government hopes to name a preferred bidder in June 2005. The aim is to hand control of the 2707 km network to the private sector by the end of this year.

Three consortia have been prequalified by the Presidential Parastatal Sector Reform Commission and its Lead Transaction Advisor CPCS Transcom. The Great Lakes Railway Co grouping of Comazar, Bolloré, Sheltam, First Rand Merchant and local Tanzanian investors is bidding against a joint venture of Spoornet and New Limpopo Project Investments and a team led by Rites of India. All three groups held meetings with PSRC officials at a bidders conference in Dar es Salaam on January 19-20.

The government will retain ownership of the rail infrastructure; the concessionaire will maintain, operate, and develop the network, and fund the renewal of track and rolling stock. The government has requested support from the World Bank to guarantee its payment obligations under the concession agreement, which would reduce the concessionaire's cost of capital.

The Bank has already approved a credit for technical assistance and purchase of track materials for upgrading the TRC main line. The government has allocated US$33m for capital investment, of which US$24·75m will be released to the concessionaire. TRC has already begun infrastructure rehabilitation using the initial tranche of US$8·25m.