The $US 1bn project, which is expected to attract funding from China, will involve the complete reconstruction of the superstructure and realignment of the track to increase axleloads to 21 tonnes and lines speeds to 120km/h.

It is planned to lay UIC 50 E4 rails on dual-gauge, pre-stressed concrete sleepers, in preparation for future conversion of the line to standard gauge.

The contractor, which has yet to be appointed, will also rehabilitate 38 stations and install new signalling and telecommunications in addition to reconstructing 200 bridges along the western line.