The bidding process for the construction of the high-speed rail service between the country’s two largest cities, São Paulo and Rio do Janeiro has just been launched by Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The train is expected to be running by 2016 when Brazil hosts the Olympic Games, in the southeastern city of Rio de Janeiro.
The project is expected to cost US$ 18.75 billion and bidding conditions specify that rights for the construction, operation and maintenance of the rail line for 40 years will be granted to the firm which ensures the lowest fare for the service between the two megalopolis.
The bidding process concludes December 16 at the São Paulo stock exchange when the sealed bids will be opened and the winner selected. Companies from Spain, France, Germany, China, South Korea and Japan have expressed a strong interest in the project.
The proposal calls for trains to run at speeds of up to 350 kph along the 510 kilometers route including nine stations and stops at Rio and São Paulo international airports. The trip between the two cities should take no longer than 97 minutes.
The corridor for the proposed bullet train is home to some 40 million people, 20% of the Brazilian population and straddling companies and industries that generate a third of the country’s GDP.
At the ceremony, president Lula fustigated those who didn’t believe the project would ever take off.
“At the start, it was said that nobody would be interested, that nobody would present a proposal. I had to talk with my friend (Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez) Zapatero and with my friend (French President) Nicolas Sarkozy to show that it was for real and serious,” said Lula.
The Brazilian president also signed the bill creating the High Speed Rail Transport Company which guarantees the state will have a share of the project and ensure that whoever wins technology transfer is also included. Brazil, with a continental dimension, has virtually no railway system. Government financing of the project is limited to 60%.
“In the last fifteen years nobody in this country has laid a single train rail”, said Lula da Silva promising that “we are going to furnish this country with good highways, waterways and railways system, and this has already taken off”.
Despite the fact that one of the criteria for the selection of a winner is the lowest fare, the National Agency for Land Transport has already established a cap of 28 US cents per kilometer, which ensures the bullet train will compete with the São Paulo/Rio do Janeiro air shuttle. This means a maximum fare of US$ 113 for the whole trip.
Brazilian officials estimate the project will get under way in late 2011, once all the environmental licenses are issued and should be concluded by 2015 in time for the Summer Olympics but too late for the 2014 World Cup.
An extension to Campinas, 70 kilometers from São Paulo has also been planned with the purpose of reaching the heartland of Brazil’s richest manufacturing and farming state.