Transnet said on Monday it was ordering more than 1 000 new trains, in what it hailed as South Africa’s biggest single corporate infrastructure investment.

Transnet is in the midst of a seven-year plan to expand the railways, ports and pipelines that move commodities for export by 2019.

The total order of 1 064 locomotives was worth R50bn, Transnet said in a statement.

It ordered 599 electric locomotives from China’s Zhuzhou and the South African subsidiary of Canada’s Bombardier, as well as 465 diesel trains from General Electric.

“The multi-billion rand acquisition is South Africa’s single biggest infrastructure investment initiative by a corporate,” the firm said in a statement.

All bar 70 of the trains will be built in South Africa, Transnet CEO Brian Molefe said.

“This transaction is intended to transform the South African rail industry by growing existing small businesses and creating new ones. We are going to create and preserve approximately 30 000 jobs,” added the transport boss.

After decades of underinvestment, SA is scrambling to modernise its rail network, which is currently mainly used for freight.

Commenting on why the contract was split among four companies, Molefe said “no single supplier would have the capacity or resources to deliver within the timelines envisaged”.

The trains will mainly be used for transportation of general cargo.

Delivery of the first locomotives was expected in 15 months and the last batch three years later.