Jordan’s Transport Ministry expects to invite companies express interest in the construction of its planned $4.3bn freight railway during the first quarter of 2011.

The ministry was initially aiming to invite expressions of interest in October 2010 with plans to prequalify companies by the end of the year (MEED 29:9:10).

The Transport Ministry and France’s BNP Paribas, the financial adviser on the project, are currently deciding whether to tender it as one design, build, transfer, operate and maintain package or as two separate packages – one for design and build and the second for operation and maintenance.

The existing railway network in Jordan needs upgrading. The new plans involve building a main freight track running from the Syrian border in the north to Aqaba port in the south. The plan also involves building an extension to Saudi Arabia and one to Iraq.

Beirut-based Dar al-Handasah carried out the preliminary design of the network. Construction is likely to take three to four years to complete. The project will be carried in one phase. Jordan is in the process of forming the Jordanian Railway Corporation (JRC) that will own the railway. A private company will operate the railway.