The order is being financed through a $US 2.1bn loan agreement between China and Argentina signed in July which will facilitate the rebuilding of the metre-gauge system, which has suffered from decades of neglect and underinvestment.

The Argentine treasury has also agreed to contribute $US 370m towards the rehabilitation of the network, taking the total investment to nearly $US 2.5bn.

China Machinery Engineering Company has been awarded a turnkey contract to implement the revival programme.