A DECREE published by the Argentinian government on March 25 gave the Canarail consultancy 90 days to complete a feasibility study for the ambitious Transpatagónico railway from Choele Choel and San Antonio del Este to Punta Loyola, with a ferry link to Tierra del Fuego. The government would then have a further 120 days to consider the project, and has signed an agreement with the provinces en route to take the scheme forward.

Preliminary estimates put the total cost of building the freight railway at US$1bn. Hoping to complete the Transpatagónico project without recourse to public funding, the government intends to seek bids for a build and operate contract before the end of this year.

Canarail has been working on the study at its own risk, including proposed links to Lonquimay and Puerto Chacabuco in Chile. Figures prepared by Argentina’s National Port Infrastructure Authority suggest that the San Antonio Oeste - Comodoro Rivadavia section of the line could carry over 200million tonnes of freight a year, against a construction cost of US$318m. o