BRAZILIAN freight operator VLI, which holds the concession for the Central Atlantic Railway (FCA), has signed a contract with Wabtec for nine ES-43BBI locomotives.

The contract, worth around Reais 200m ($US 38.8m), was signed during the 23rd NT Expo in São Paulo, with the first locomotives to be delivered within 18 months.

The ES43BBi heavy-haul locomotive is designed for Brazil’s metre-gauge railways. It is equipped with a 12-cylinder EVO 3.3MW engine, advanced AC traction system with individual axle control and articulated bogies, which will allow it to operate on steep gradients and tight curves. It is also equipped with a redesigned air-to-air system and extra blowers directly integrated onto the traction motors, and features RailConnect 360 software, including Trip Optimizer, Locotrol Distributed Power System, Positive Train Control (PTC), and PTC 2.0, which Wabtec says further increases efficiency and safety, and optimises driving.

The new locomotives will meet increased demand on the company's central-east corridor, which carries freight from the steel industry, agribusiness, coal, fertilizers, fuel, and cellulose sectors to ports in the Espírito Santo region.

The FCA runs through seven Brazilian states. The early renewal of the FCA concession is currently being processed by the regulatory bodies.

VLI recently signed a 30-year contract with LD Cellulose to transport 500,000 tonnes of dissolving pulp produced in the Triângulo Mineiro region to the port of Barra do Riacho, Espírito Santo, each year. VLI has invested Reais 400m in wagons specifically for the contract.

VLI is also studying new investments and opportunities to increase the volumes transported to the ports of Espírito Santo. This included the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Vports (formerly Codesa) for expansion works at the new Port of Vitória, with the aim of increasing the volume of freight transported through the site. The agreement includes studies to explore opportunities for investments in railways, ports and terminals worth up to Reais 200m.

The study estimates that the volume of mineral and vegetable freight could increase by 4 million tonnes. To handle this increase, VLI will analyse the need to acquire new wagons and locomotives.

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