Argentine President Mauricio Macri led the inauguration ceremony for the initial 700 kilometres of renewed railway tracks of the Belgrano Cargas line on May 31.
The renovation, which will cost around US$3 billion including new trains, is being done with the help of finance from China Machinery Engineering Corp (CMEC), together with development bank Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) and the Argentine government.
The ceremony took place at the northern end of the line, in the town of Joaquin V. Gonzalez in Salta province. It forms part of a network running southwards to the Port of Rosario, improving shipping time to destinations around the world for Argentine agricultural exports such as grain and soybean. At present, most goods have been transported to Rosario port by truck, which is slow and expensive.
The works are part of a mammoth project that seeks to initially renovate the old network of 1,800 kilometres of railways in the region.
Introducing new locomotives is part of a comprehensive plan to reactivate the freight network. These are being manufactured by China's CRRC Qishuyan, a subsidiary of China Railroad Rolling Stock (CRRC), China's biggest train manufacturer. The locomotives have already been running on sections of the upgraded line for several years.
The plan is mostly financed by a US$2.47 billion credit line under an agreement with China Machinery Engineering Corporation. Argentina has already acquired 3,500 rail cars, and is taking a total of 107 locomotives, along with parts, machinery, tools and shipping containers.
CMEC is leading the project to renovate the lines and source the rolling stock, in what is viewed as one of the most important Belt and Road Initiative projects in South America.