ARGENTINE President Carlos Menem participated in a ceremony on December 18 to transfer the country’s last state-owned railway to a private-sector consortium. Railway trades union Unión Ferroviaria gains control of Ferrocarril Belgrano Cargas SA after operating the 10000 km metre-gauge network on a temporary basis since mid-1997. At that time, the Ministry of Economics delayed award of the concession while it looked for private bidders (RG 9.97 p560).

The government has now granted a 30-year concession to an operating consortium owned 51% by UF, 48% by the co-operative of Laguna Paiva in Santa Fé and 1% by the state. Operations will be transferred this month; the company is expected to operate 7600 route-km using around 800 staff.

A subsidy of US$250m over the next five years will fund investment in track and rolling stock. UF President José Pedraza announced that 150 wagons had been ordered from Ferrostaal of Germany and local firm Minetti-Corcema.