Brazil plans to auction off a license to build and operate a high-speed rail link between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the first project of its kind in Latin America, in late 2014 or early 2015, Transportation Minister Cesar Borges said Thursday in a teleconference with foreign reporters.

The government currently is reworking the bidding model to attract more interest in the project from private companies, he added, calling it "a necessity for the country's development."

In August, President Dilma Rousseff's administration postponed the high-speed-rail auction after only one potential bidder - a consortium of French companies - expressed formal interest.

Borges also acknowledged that allegations that one of the companies that made up that consortium had fraudulently obtained a rail contract in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo also played a role in delaying the auction.

"We're reworking the model to attract a larger number of investors. We're going to show there's sufficient cargo to transport on that line and large passenger demand," he said.

The studies will show that the three main cities along the route, which will link Rio de Janeiro to Campinas via Sao Paulo, are major cargo centers that also have pent-up demand for passenger rail service.

"That train will obviate the need to build new airports or roads to serve those cities in the future," he said.

The project, which has an estimated price tag of $17.2 billion, will involve construction of a 511-kilometer (317-mile) stretch linking Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and a 97-kilometer stretch connecting Sao Paulo and Campinas. EFE