Bidders pick over AN’s bones

first_imgBIDDING for the remnants of Australian National closed on June 20 with decisions expected to be announced around the end of the financial year on June 30.Almost 50 groups had registered interest, many forming consortia or subsequently joining the 15 shortlisted bidders on May 6. Freight prospects attracted Toll Holdings-TNT, and the acquisitive Wisconsin Central with CGE (which owns Connex in Britain). West Coast Rail (already carrying country passengers in Victoria) offered to run AN’s three surviving tourist trains including Indian Pacific, but was barred from bidding for freight assets. Great Southern, a consortium including Goninan, Rio Grande Pacific Corp and Rocky Mountain Rail Tours, was set to bid for several lots.Banned from the sale on ideological grounds were public sector bodies such as SA Generation Corp, which draws coal for its Port Augusta power station from mines at Leigh Creek, and National Rail Corp. NRC had wanted AN’s Dry Creek motive power and wagon maintenance shops at Dry Creek near Adelaide, and had nominated these assets for transfer under legislation which set up the company. However, NRC is itself due to be sold in the first half of 1998, so bids were not considered appropriate.The budget announced on May 13 failed to provide funding for a National Rail Infrastructure Authority to be set up in July despite federal Transport Minister John Sharp saying in April that it was ’on track’ for a July launch, thus creating even more confusion and uncertainty. NRIA (formerly Track Australia) may be created soon after the start of the next financial year on July 1 1998, taking over the Track Access Unit which is the only part of AN not for sale. olast_img

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