by Victoria Arguello, Juan Manuel
BUENOS AIRES, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Argentina's cargo rail system has witnessed improvements in running time and capacity thanks to cooperation with China.
"Chinese support is extremely important" to expand the train fleet, which had been neglected for years, said German Hanacek, assistant project manager of the state-owned train company Belgrano Cargo and Logistics, during a recent interview with Xinhua.
He said that the new trains with reduced transportation time and improved cargo capacity would double their speed from 15 km per hour to 30 in 2019.
The results are a victory for China's Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen the Asian giant invest heavily in boosting Latin America's infrastructure and connectivity.
For the past four years, China has aided Argentina in revamping its Belgrano Cargas railway, particularly its San Martin and General Urquiza lines, which are key to connecting the country's agricultural northwest to the major export hubs.
The extensive project calls for 107 Chinese-made locomotives, 97 of which have been delivered via the port in the capital Buenos Aires, and 3,500 rail cars manufactured by Chinese rolling-stock maker CRRC Corp.
With Chinese financing, the project aims to rehabilitate the 1,500-km cargo rail line that runs through the northern provinces of Santa Fe, Tucuman, Salta and Cordoba.
The line, operated by the state-owned Argentinian Cargo Trains (TAC), connects the country's northern provinces to one of its major ports, Gran Rosario.
Hanacek also highlighted the visit of Argentinian engineers, drivers and technical staff to China, noting the important exchange of knowledge.
"It is a great project for us and we are grateful. We were treated very well and they were always open to anything we requested," said Hanacek.
According to official data, the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) is financing the 2.47-billion-U.S.-dollar renovation project, which includes new rails, machinery, tools and parts.
In the first five months of the year, Belgrano Cargas registered record high cargo shipments of 680,107 tons, according to Argentina's Ministry of Transport.
Next year, the Argentinian government estimates that 6 million tons of cargo will be carried on the Belgrano Cargas tracks, compared to 2.5 million tons in 2015.
"We are leading the most important renovation effort ever carried out on our cargo rail," Minister of Transport Guillermo Dietrich said, "so the production of our regional economies reach the ports of Rosario for export in the shortest time and at the lowest cost."