Brazil eyes 2-phase high speed train tender in Feb

RIO DE JANEIRO Tue May 27, 2008 7:33pm EDT

RIO DE JANEIRO May 27 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government plans to hold separate tenders next February for foreign and local companies to present offers for a $9 billion high-speed railway project between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Cabinet Chief Dilma Rousseff said on Tuesday during a presentation on infrastructure that the winners of the separate phases would later be joined into one group that would effectively build the railroad.

"Those who win, be it a Japanese, Korean or French consortium, will qualify on its side, and we'll (Brazilian side) have a consortium formed on our side. The two consortia that win will merge to create a special purpose entity," Rousseff said.

The proposed railway is to link the international airports of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, as well as a cargo airport in the city of Campinas in Sao Paulo state.

Authorities have been trying to reduce traffic at crowded urban airports, especially Sao Paulo's local Congonhas airport, after a TAM airlines Airbus overshot the runway in Congonhas last July, killing a total of 199 people.

Previously, government estimates had put the cost of the project at $11 billion. It was not immediately clear why the expected costs have come down.

Rousseff has recently visited Japan and South Korea to present the project there.

In neighboring Argentina, France's Alstom SA (ALSO.PA) was given a contract to build a $1.5 billion high-speed railway -- the country's first, earlier this year.

Rousseff also said the government was negotiating with the United States a partnership agreement for a railroad project that would link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It would link Brazil's Paranagua port with Chile's Mejillones.

The Brazilian portion of the link would be between Paranagua in southern Parana state and Maracaju in Mato Grosso do Sul not far from the border with Paraguay.

Its estimated cost is 800 million reais ($480 million). The railroad would help to transport grains from central-western Brazil, Rousseff said, adding that the U.S. participation was likely to be confined to financing. (Reporting by Rodrigo Gaier, writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Braden Reddall)

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