THE MEXICAN government on July 1 awarded a 50-year concession to Triturados Basalticos y Derivados SA to operate the 1 479 km Ferrocarril Sureste in the southeast of the country. Also included in the package is an option for the Mayab line, connecting Coatzacoalcos with Merida in Yucatan (RG 4.98 p212). According to Deputy Transport Minister Aaron Dychter, the southeastern lines carried 12·7% of Mexico’s rail freight in 1996. Together they serve sugar mills producing 70% of the country’s output, five cement plants, several large petrochemical complexes including two refineries, and major coffee plantations.

A subsidiary of the giant Grupo Tribasa SA construction company, TBD bid 2·9bn pesos for the Sureste, more than twice the amount offered by a rival consortium that included two large Mexican industrial firms and Illinois Central. IC had a 49% stake in the venture, as it planned to integrate its US routes with Mexico via a train ferry between Mobile, Alabama and the port of Veracruz. However, IC says it still plans to inaugurate the ferry service, which should substantially increase traffic on the Sureste routes from the Gulf ports of Veracruz and Coatzacoalcos to Mexico City.

Tribasa Chief Executive says TBD will invest 2·5bn pesos in modernisation of the network over the next 10 years, including the purchase of new locomotives. It is backed by Banco Inbursa and the Kingsley group, with Denver-based short line specialist Omnitrax providing the rail expertise. The deal brings the proportion of FNM freight traffic transferred to private control to 97%, and lifts the Mexican government’s earnings from rail privatisation to over US$2bn. o