BUENOS AIRES, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Among the flagship cooperation projects between China and Argentina, one is aimed at revamping the South American country's aging rail network, including cargo and passenger trains.
As part of this win-win cooperation, China is supplying financing, rolling stock and know-how, and Argentina represents a sound investment opportunity for Chinese companies.
Guillermo Fiad, president of Argentine Train Infrastructure, Argentina's national rail administration agency, believes this bilateral cooperation will lead to stronger ties and "new development opportunities."
The rail project currently centers on renovating more than 1,700 km of the Belgrano Cargas cargo line that links the port of Rosario, the country's main export hub, with Argentina's northwest breadbasket through the provinces of Santa Fe, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Salta, Jujuy and Tucuman.
However, the overall objective is more ambitious.
"The goal is to renovate 10,000 km of rail. We hope the Chinese companies participate and work with us. We have high expectations of being able to achieve that in the next few years," Fiad told Xinhua.
In July, following renovation work, Belgrano Cargas transported 180,722 tons of cargo, a record in the past 20 years, according to the Argentine Ministry of Transport.
China is contributing to upgrading other rail lines as well, including San Martin and General Urquiza Cargas, both key segments of the national railway network.
As part of the bilateral cooperation, Argentina is looking to acquire a total of 107 Chinese-made locomotives for the three lines. To date, 97 locomotives have arrived at the port of Buenos Aires, along with 3,500 rail cars manufactured by Chinese rail company CRRC.
"China's support, via its companies and credit lines granted to us through an agreement between the two countries, has been one of the main drivers behind all this process of transformation," said Fiad.
Argentina's rail infrastructure "received no investment of any kind in over 50 years," he said, stressing the magnitude of the task.
"In total, the project has so far renovated 550 km of rail across five provinces," he said.
At least 70 percent of the financing needed to renovate the rails has come from China, and Argentina is hoping it will "continue to increase" even more, he added.
By 2019, Argentina's government aims to double the Belgrano Cargas line's speed from 15 to 30 km per hour.
"In Argentina we have numerous investment opportunities in the rail system. We are betting on diverse sources of financing and we have a ton of projects," said Fiad.
But China brings more than financing to the table, he noted, praising the technological know-how and technical capabilities of Chinese engineers taking part in the project.
With China's help, Argentina is also upgrading passenger rail lines that connect Buenos Aires with outlying areas. The Roca, Sarmiento and Mitre lines, which serve commuters to the south, west and north, respectively, have been improved in the past five years with new cars and other equipment.
In addition, Chinese technicians from CRRC Sifang are offering training in Llavallol, some 33 km south of Buenos Aires, to bring their Argentine counterparts up to speed on the maintenance of the new trains equipped with computerized safety systems and other high-tech features.
The Roca line, part of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Train system, the country's most extensive rail network, has already incorporated 300 Chinese-made electric cars and plans to include another 200.
The 200 new cars have already been shipped. Once they arrive, they will replace the aging Japanese cars currently in use, according to Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich.
The new trains will expand passenger capacity and introduce new features, such as allowing passengers to move from one car to another for better distribution of ridership.
Cooperation between the two strategic partners in the rail sector is not only helping to bolster infrastructure in Argentina, but also to improve transport, quality of life, and trade.
"China's support has been essential. It's a key contribution and we are confident that it will continue that way," said Fiad.