The initial tender encompasses operation, maintenance and upkeep of railway systems for 40 years as well as the supply and installation of soundproofing, electrification, telecommunications, signalling and train control systems. ANTT will hold meetings to clarify the announcement in São Paulo on January 29 and March 19 2013. A separate tender to construct the line will be issued in 2014.

ANTT says it has revised the terms of the tender by splitting it in two and increasing the public stake in the consortium to 45% from 30% previously to reduce the risk to the international consortia likely to bid. Two previous tenders for the project were abandoned in 2010 and 2011 due to a lack of interest. The Brazilian president Ms Dilma Rouseff made building the line a top priority for her administration and the government is keen to avoid a repeat of the unsuccessful tenders in order to complete the project by 2020.

The winning bidder will invest an estimated Reais 7.7bn ($US 3.71bn) in the project, offer economy-class tickets for no more than Reais 200, and cover the 418km between Rio and São Paulo in less than 1h 39min. Mr Bernardo Figueiredo, ANTT executive director, says he anticipates that 40 million people will use the service in its first year of operation, rising to 100 million by the end of the concession in 2060.

He added that the government will pay for its part of the construction costs through the fees the operator will pay the state, which will be set at a minimum of Reais 70.38 for each kilometre travelled, totalling more than Reais 27bn over the course of the concession. He said the winner of the contract will be the bidder which offers the highest fees to the government and a design that costs the least to build.