China presented a plan that would see it spend more than $1 billion to refurbish a key railway connecting Zambia’s copper heartland with the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam to the east.

Beijing’s ambassador to Zambia Du Xiaohui handed the proposal to Frank Tayali, the nation’s transport minister, Wednesday, saying in comments broadcast on state radio that the investment amount would be over the “coming years.”

The Tanzanian and Zambian governments decided to hand the concession to run Tazara — as the railroad is known — on a commercial basis to a Chinese state-owned company. A team from China Civil and Engineering Construction Corp. visited the two African nations to study the line ahead of submitting the proposal. 

China built and financed the 1,860-kilometer (1,156 miles) railway in the 1970s, and it’s since fallen into disrepair, operating at a fraction of its design capacity. The line will compete directly with another railroad the US is backing to connect Zambia westward to the Lobito port on Angola’s Atlantic coast.