Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport (DOT) is aiming to name a preferred bidder for the development of the $2.7bn Mafraq-Ghweifat road by mid-September.

Sources close to the project say that the DOT invited two of the bidders, the consortiums led by Australian bank Macquarie and Austrian contractor Strabag, to clarification meetings in mid-August. At the meeting the two consortiums were given two weeks to provide additional information on their bids to help the DOT’s analysis and make the bids more comparable.

A third bidder for the project, a joint venture of China Communications Construction Company and MTD Capital, is understood to have now been informed that their bid is no longer being considered for the project.

A source close to the DOT says, “The Chinese consortium was kept in the process for too long to make it look like there was a vibrant competition for the project.”

As recently as late July sources involved in the project confirmed that all three bids for the project were still being considered, despite widespread market speculation that the Chinese consortium had been disqualified.

If a preferred bidder is named in September it will be a significant boost for the project, which has fallen behind schedule. Three consortiums bid for the project in late 2009 after a series of extensions to the timeline and a preferred bidder was due to be selected in March. This has been pushed back several times as the bid evaluation process has taken longer than expected. Most recently, sources close to the project indicated that they hoped to name a preferred bidder by mid-August.

Under the original timetable for the project seven weeks were allocated for evaluating commercial bids, which were opened in late July.

The DOT is being advised by Ernst & Young and the US’ Citigroup on the project.