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South Korea, Japan, Europe vie for Brazil bullet train project

The bid for Brazil’s planned $20 billion bullet train venture slated for April is shaping up to be a three-way race between South Korea, Japan and Europe, a Seoul official said Thursday.

The head of the Latin American country’s transport regulator ANTT Bernardo Figueiredo said this week that at least three consortia will be competing for the right to build and run a high-speed railway in country.

Contenders include a consortium led by Hyundai Heavy Industries and at least two other undisclosed groups, which are projected to be headed by Brazilian construction companies, he added.

“It would most likely be a rivalry between Korea and Japan or Europe,” Seo Seon-duk, who leads the Korean bidding committee for the Brazilian bullet train project, said.

The auction for one of the key infrastructure projects in the Latin American country has been delayed to allow time for more companies to participate.

The bid was originally scheduled for November but could not take place as the Korean consortium was the sole bidder at the time.

Under the new schedule, the ANTT will name the preferred bidder on April 29 and announce the final contractor in June. Contracts for the project will be signed by the end of the year, it said.

The Korean group consists of about 15 local firms including the state-run railway operator Korail, Korea Rail Network Authority, Hyundai Rotem and Hyundai Heavy Industries. Their Brazilian partners include investment firm UTC and builder EGESA.

Brazil plans to build a 510 kilometer-high speed railway to connect Rio with Sao Paulo and Campinas, which will cover seven stations including stops at international airports.

The rail line, which will operate at speeds of up to 350 kilometers per hour, is expected to be completed ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In addition to the 2016 Olympics, Brazil is to host the soccer World Cup in 2014. The country’s poor infrastructure, from congested roads to clogged airports, has been at the center of investor concerns.

The venture is part of a large-scale infrastructure investment plan President Dilma Rousseff spearheaded as chief of staff in the previous administration.

Meanwhile, Korea has been seeking to export its homegrown bullet train KTX-II to Brazil, Turkey and California.

It has recently been stepping up research efforts on developing original technologies for manufacturing bullet trains and railway.

The country has in particular been marketing to Brazil its leading technology and operational know-how as well as the geographical similarity between the Seoul-Busan route and the planned Rio-San Paulo route.

By Koh Young-aah (youngaah@heraldcorp.com)
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