ARGENTINA’s minister of transport, Mr Alexis Guerrera, has decided not to renew the concessions for the Sarmiento, Mitre and Roca freight lines, instead bringing them under public management after 30 years.

Freight operation will be transferred to Argentinean Trains Cargo (TAC), which will look to work with private operators through open-access and public-private partnerships (PPP), while Argentinean Trains Infrastructure (TAI) will take over management of the lines.

Guerrera rejected a request from Pampean Railway Express, New Central Argentina and Ferrosur Roca to extend the contracts, after a report from the Special Commission for the Renegotiation of Contracts found that the concessions had a negative impact on the railways, including on the quality of the infrastructure and the level of service provided. The commission found TAC should become more involved, with private operators focusing solely on providing their own services.

TAC will take over after the current concessions, which expire on October 31 2021 for Pampean Railway Express; December 21 2022 for New Central Argentina; and March 10 2023 for Ferrosur Roca. In order to allow a 10-month transition period, Pampean Railway Express will continue to operate under the terms of the concession until June 30 2022.

TAI will take over management of the infrastructure after the concessions expire. It will also propose the track access fees that will be paid by freight and passenger operators following the transition period, which will be approved by the Ministry of Transport.

TAC will invite the private operators to operate services, until legislation is passed to allow open access operation, and will also ensure current staff continue in their jobs.

Argentina Railways (FASE), the parent company of TAI and TAC, will oversee the implementation of the agreements between the companies. Together with the Secretariats of Planning and Transportation Management, it will also prioritise the investments required in the railways.

In May, the World Bank’s board of directors approved a $US 347m loan to upgrade infrastructure and improve service levels on the Mitre Line.