By April 1995 the respective governments had reached a series of agreements and had invited bidders to tender for the transformation of the N4 into the Maputo Corridor toll road. It would have to be a private sector-driven project, which required the establishment of a public-private partnership that could remove the route’s operational, maintenance and rehabilitation costs from the two governments’ operational budgets.
Equally important, the bid would have to include socio-economic outcomes through a social contract. This would enable the empowerment and upliftment of communities in the immediate vicinity of the N4 through social and entrepreneurial development, job creation and training and skills transfer in a variety of fields.
In the last quarter of 1996, Trans African Concessions (TRAC) was named the preferred bidder after an intense bid development process that cost approximately R50-million. TRAC, comprising a partnership between Basil Read, Stocks & Stocks (both South African construction companies) and Bouygues (a French construction multinational) would be responsible for carrying out the terms of the 30-year concession to build, operate and maintain the toll road. The joint venture between the three construction companies, aptly named SBB, would undertake the initial construction work, which lasted three-and-a-half years.
In May 1997, the concession documents were signed by TRAC and the South African and Mozambican governments, represented by their respective national roads agencies, SANRAL and ANE. By December that year, TRAC had raised the start-up finance (approximately R1.3-billion) required for the project. Construction of the Middelburg Toll Plaza began soon thereafter. This would be the first of three plazas along the N4 in South Africa, with another two in Mozambique. Over the first three-and-half years, R1.5-billion of the contract’s R3-billion price tag was spent on upgrading the road and services.