According to a statement released by Tazara, the agreement was concluded by Tazara managing director Mr Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika and China's chief representative for economic and commercial cooperation, Mr Lin Zhiyong.

The deal concerns 12 separate projects, including the modernisation of 42 passenger coaches, the supply of four new mainline locomotives, two diesel shunting locomotives, 30,000 wooden sleepers, track maintenance vehicles, and components. Tazara says Chinese consultants will also provide staff training.

The work is being financed by China through a $US 66.2m loan and grant agreement signed earlier this year.

Mbikusita-Lewanika says funds provided by China to the Tanzanian and Zambian governments under 15 different protocols will keep the railway in operation over the next three years while the two African governments complete a desperately-needed programme of recapitalisation, reconstruction and restructuring.

Tazara has received regular financial support from the Chinese government in the form of interest-free loans dubbed 'protocols of economic and technical cooperation.' Once completed, the projects in the 14th and 15th protocols will bring much-needed additional capacity, doubling the number of locomotives in service by 2015.