TUNISIAN State Railways has negotiated a ´13bn loan from the Japan Bank for International Co-operation to fund the long-planned electrification of its metre-gauge Tunis suburban service to Borj Cedria. This was first floated in 1990 following the completion of a new maintenance depot at Borj Cedria and the extension of double-track from Hamman-Lif. Further studies were conducted in 1993.

The JBIC loan follows another round of studies, undertaken by Systra of France. Electrification of the 23 km line is expected to get under way as soon as the loan agreement has been formalised. The package includes the purchase of around 50 EMU cars and further expansion of Borj Cedria depot.

Contracts will be awarded for consultancy services, engineering projects and materials supply. One condition of the deal is that Japanese companies must be offered the supervising engineering consultancy role, responsible for the drawing up of international tender documents.

The loan will be in two parts, with around 10% allocated for the consultancy element. This will attract interest of 0·75% for seven years. Most of the remainder will fund the purchase of equipment, and will be charged at 2·2% a year over a 25 years, with a seven-year grace period. n