EXPRESSIONS of interest are to be called shortly for a private concessionaire to operate rail services in Western Australia; the intention is to complete the sale this year. The state’s Rail Access Committee presented its recommendations to the government last month.Westrail’s rolling stock, depots, terminals and existing contracts are to be sold outright to the successful bidder, who will lease the state-owned track and land for 20 years, with options to extend. The state will also retain the suburban and country passenger services, and will have the right to invest in track upgrading or operate trains. This clause would allow open access on the Kalgoorlie – Perth part of the standard gauge interstate network as demanded by the federal government and other players (RG 9.98 p508).The winner will be required to complete Westrail’s five-year A$26m upgrading of wheat lines and A$32m resleepering of the Kalgoorlie – Esperance route.May 1 sees the formal handover of V/Line Freight operations to the Freight Victoria group (RG 4.99 p190). FV has already contracted for ABB to undertake track maintenance throughout the state-owned network, funded through an annual grant of A$22m from Victoria. FV has also selected Motive Power International, the former Morrison Knudsen Australia, to handle loco maintenance at its South Dynon works in Melbourne, The company plans to maintain its own wagon fleet. Meanwhile, losing bidder Australian Transport Network has confirmed plans for an ’aggressive assault’ on the Victorian freight market using open access powers, and is holding talks with major V/Line shippers.