The project involves a major upgrade of the 273km line connecting the port of Montevideo with Paso de los Toros in the department of Durazno, where Finnish paper producer UPM is planning to invest €2bn in a new pulp mill, which will have capacity to process around 2 million tonnes of eucalyptus pulp annually. UPM will invest in rolling stock as part of the project.

The Vía Central consortium of Saceem (Peru), Sacyr (Spain), Berkel (Uruguay), and NGE (France) has been selected for the contract to build the line.

One of the three bidders, Spanish construction firm Acciona, had appealed against the award but the company’s complaint was rejected by the Court of Auditors, clearing the way for the Ministry of Transport and Public Works to finalise the construction contract with Vía Central.

The line will be double-track for the first 26km from Montevideo and single track thereafter with 12 passing loops. The line will be built to accommodate 22.5-tonne axleloads and a maximum line speed of 80km/h for freight trains. More than 40 bridges will be upgraded or replaced.