THE ARGENTINE government issued a decree in April confirming that construction of two long-planned rail links would be ’in the public interest’. This paves the way for the Secretary of Transport to offer concessions to build and operate the Transpatagonico line and the Transandino del Sur corridor linking Bahía Blanca with Talcahuano in Chile.

Decree 346/99 also provides for surplus FA rolling stock and equipment held by the Residual Railway Authority to be used on the two projects. Expressions of interest for both were invited on April 16, with responses due within 30 days.

Canarail completed economic feasibility studies earlier this year for the Transpatagonico route to Punta Loyola, from where a new ferry service would run to Caleta La Mision in Tierra del Fuego (RG 6.98 p368). The 137 km first phase would link San Antonio Oeste with Puerto Madryn.

A bilateral accord for the 1343 km Transandino del Sur corridor was signed by the Argentine and Chilean governments in April. Each government will provide US$140m towards construction of a 210 km link between Zapala and Lonquimay, and Concessionaires Ferrosur Roca and Ferrocarril Pacífico would be responsible for upgrading the Bahía Blanca - Zapala and Lonquimay - Talcahuano lines respectively.