Mali has signed an agreement with China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd. to renovate a rail line linking its capital Bamako to the border with neighboring Senegal at a cost of about $1.49 billion, the West African nation's transport minister said Saturday. The project is part of a plan to upgrade the aging, 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 Thursday.

Speaking on state-owned radio, Mamadou Hachim Koumare said work on the Malian section of the project will include upgrading 400 miles of rail lines and renovating 22 railway stations.

"This will allow us to have 100 kilometer per hour [62 mph] passenger trains and freight trains of 80 kilometers per hour. Today passenger trains are not even doing 20 kilometers per hour," he said.

Once begun, 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.