Bids for the contract were opened on 13 April. SNTF will carry out a technical evaluation of the offers and is expected to invite the winning group to enter contract negotiations by the end of the April.

The contract involves upgrading the 100-year-old line between Mecheria, 250 kilometres south of Oran, and Bechar, the administrative capital of the Saoura region in the western part of the Algerian Sahara. The selected group will replace the existing narrow track with modern, standard track that will allow for greater speed and heavier payloads. Officials estimate that the new line will carry 1.5 million tonnes of freight a year.

In addition to the track upgrade, the contract also involves the construction of five stations, 20 steel bridges and two maintenance workshops, which are to be built at either end of the line. The project, which is expected to require some 5 million cubic metres of earthworks, is intended to contribute to the economic development of the region, which is close to the border with Morocco.

SNTF will launch a second tender in July for a stretch of track to link Mecheria to Redjem Demouche, 100 kilometres further north. Another tender will be launched for work on the 15-kilometre Es Senia-Arzew line. The contract is valued at around AD 1,000 million ($12 million).

An earlier contract for a 160-kilometre railway in the east of the country looks set to be retendered in the wake of ongoing difficulties of the local Khalifa Group. The group’s subsidiary Khalifa Construction was originally selected with Philipp Holzmann and the local Infrarail for the Eur 50 million ($54 million) contract to build the line from Tebessa near the Tunisian border to the town of Ain M’Lila, south of Constantine. However, it now looks possible that Khalifa Construction will have to exit the group. If no replacement can be found, the contract will be retendered (MEED 7:3:03).