Until recently, it was hoped to launch the tender in August or September, and this is the government's third attempt to kick-start the project after previous invitations to tender failed to attract bidders.

If the latest attempt to invite bids for Phase 1 proves a success, then ANTT plans to go out to tender in the second quarter of 2013 for the contract to construct the 510km line. ANTT says this would enable the railway to open in 2018.