BRAZIL’s new minister of transport, Mr Renan Calheiros Filho, has announced the government’s investment package for the first 100 days in power with initial infrastructure investment prioritising road improvements, including several new projects, which are receiving the majority of the Reais 18bn ($US 3.47bn) allocated.

Calheiros Filho says the government is focusing on rail projects that “are structural to the network,” instead of shorter routes or those that are not included in plans to integrate the national network. The plan does not include any new rail projects in addition to those announced during the government of former president, Mr Jair Bolsonaro.

Priority will now be given to the West-East Integration Railway (Fiol) and Centre-West Integration Railway (Fico) projects to enable freight flows from the country’s central region through to the port of Ilhéus in the state of Bahia.

According to the minister, studies to finalise a partnership with the private sector to build Fiol’s Section 2 (Caetité - Barreiras, in Bahia) will be ready by April, which will be followed by the publication of a public notice. However, work on Section 3 from Barreiras to Figueirópolis in Tocantins state, which has not yet started, “can be done completely without public contributions,” the minister says.

The objective is to make the Fiol concession viable with 100% private capital, the same as the Fico concession, which will connect Mara Rosa, Goiás, to Água Boa, Mato Grosso.

Construction of the 383km Fico route could be included in an agreement for the early renewal of the concession contract for the Vitória - Minas Railway (EFVM), operated by Vale.

Calheiros Filho reiterated that he is working to complete the Ferrogrão project, where construction has been suspended by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) on environmental grounds.

“In the area of infrastructure, the technical opinion is that Ferrogrão is still viable with 100% private resources,” he says.

The new Pro Rail law, introduced by the previous government to simplify and accelerate the process of building new lines, will remain in place and Calheiros Filho predicts that 11 more contracts will be signed in the first few months of this year.

The National Land Transport Agency (ANTT) has since given approval to projects for pulp and paper manufacturer Suzano to build two new private railways. This includes a 25km line in Três Lagoas, Mato Grosso do Sul, and another section running to Aparecida do Taboado.

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