IN THE PRESENCE of French Transport Secretary Dominique Bussereau, on January 16 President Cristina Fernández of Argentina signed a decree awarding construction of the Buenos Aires - Córdoba high speed line to the consortium of Alstom, Iecsa, Isolux Corsán and Emepa.

According to the timetable established by Decree 96/2008, the Ministry of the Economy & Production has until March 26 to pronounce on the funding package proposed for the project, with a funding agreement to be signed within the following 10 days if it is approved.

The funding package proposed by the Veloxia consortium to meet 90% of the estimated project cost would see Société Générale lend US$1·7bn to the Argentinian government over a term of 15 years. The federal budget for 2008 foresees expenditure of 11·63bn pesos on the project between now and 2011.

Within Veloxia, civil works on the 710 km route serving seven stations (RG 8.07 p504) will be the responsibility of Iecsa, with Isolux Corsán and Emepa participating in tracklaying. As consortium leader and project manager, Alstom will be responsible for electrification, signalling (including ETCS Level 2) and telecommunications, as well as infrastructure maintenance. It will also supply and maintain eight double-deck trains capable of operating at up to 320 km/h, to be assembled at the Alstom plant in La Plata in Buenos Aires province from parts manufactured in France.