By Catarina Demony and Lisandra Paraguassu
LISBON (Reuters) – Brazil hopes to attract some 180 billion reais ($36.6 billion) of private investments in new rail and highway projects over the next three years, its Transport Minister Renan Filho told Reuters on Thursday.
The minister travelled to Lisbon to present plans for the projects to European operators and investors, as part of a road show that will continue in Germany, the United Arab Emirates, India and China, he said.
Filho said in an interview that Brazil’s government will also invest some 80 billion reais during President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s 2023-2026 term. But roughly 35 tenders should draw over twice that much investment from the private sector.
Brazil aims to expand its freight-focused rail system to carry 40% of exports by 2035, up from 17% currently, he said.
Brazil’s Transnordestina railway, which has been under construction for over 15 years but is only half completed, could be key to that expansion, said the minister, part of a powerful political family in the northeastern state of Alagoas.
The Transnordestina was designed to carry commodities like soy, corn, iron ore and gypsum from the state of Piaui north to the northern port of Pecem and east to the port of Suape.
Filho said the first stretch of the 1,700 kilometer (1,056 mi) project, the Piaui-Pecem connection, would be finished by the beginning of 2027. Construction of the full Pecem-Suape route would begin this year and is expected to be completed within five years.
Filho said the national railway plan, set to be presented next month, would include six new passenger routes, including from the capital Brasilia to the central state of Goias and from Sao Paulo to Parana. Brazil currently runs just two inter-state passenger railways.
“We believe this (passenger trains) is an area where we need to advance and grow,” Filho said.
($1 = 4.9175 reais)
(Reporting by Catarina Demony in Lisbon and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia; Editing by Brad Haynes and Timothy Gardner)