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Mali signs $1.5 bln rail deal with China Railway Construction

BAMAKO, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Mali has signed an agreement with China Railway Construction Corp to renovate a rail line linking its capital Bamako to the border with neighbouring Senegal at a cost of $1.486 billion, the West African nation’s transport minister said on Saturday.

The project is part of a plan to upgrade the ageing, 1,200-km (745-mile) railway between Senegal’s coastal capital Dakar and landlocked Mali.

China Railway Construction penned a similar agreement worth $1.26 billion with Senegal on Thursday.

Speaking on state-owned radio, Mamadou Hachim Koumare said work on the Malian section of the project will include upgrading 644 km of rail lines and renovating 22 railway stations.

“This will allow us to have 100 km per hour passenger trains and freight trains of 80 km per hour. Today passenger trains are not even doing 20 km per hour,” he said.

Once started, work on the project is expected to last four years, Malick Kasse, Mali’s national transportation director, told Reuters.

“We will now assist our friend Mali to obtain the financing,” China Railway Construction’s deputy CEO Wei Wanzheng said on national radio.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Digby Lidstone