Brazil will hold an auction in early May for contractors to bid for the $17.4bn high-speed rail project, which will link the cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Campinas, the president’s chief of staff Dilma Rousseff has said.

The 511km railway is expected to be completed between 2014 and 2016, in time for Olympic Games in 2016.

“By the World Cup (in 2014), there may be parts of the railway, but not the whole line,” Rousseff said.

Companies from seven nations, including Korea, China, Japan and France, are expected to bid for the contract. This includes Alstom (France), Siemens (Germany) and Mitsui (Japan).