Ethiopia-Djibouti electric railway opens
Oct 6, 2016: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh officially inaugurated the 756 km Chinese-built railway linking their countries in Addis Ababa on October 5.‘It is the first standard gauge electrified railroad on the continent built with Chinese standards and technology, and certainly it will not be the last’, Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia La Yifan told the local media. ‘Many stand to benefit from it.’ The new 750-km line, which completely replaces a long-defunct French line built in the early 20th century, will reduce travel time between the two cities to 10 hours from the two to three days it currently takes to navigate the congested potholed roads crossed by 1,500 trucks a day. The new line is designed to China’s specifications for operation at up to 120 km/hr, providing a freight transit time of between 10 hr and 12 hr, compared to two or three days by lorry. The line is initially being used for freight, with passenger services expected to start following three months of test running. The first freight services had actually run to a temporary unloading facility in MerebeMermersa, 112 km south of Addis Ababa, in November 2015, when the partially-completed line and construction locomotives were used to move wheat which the government had imported for use in areas affected by drought. Operations will be managed by Chinese staff for an initial five years, to give time for local employees to be trained; staff have also been sent to China and Russia for specialist training. Construction of the Ethiopian section of the route has cost around $3.4 billion, financed 70 per cent by China Exim Bank and 30 per cent by the Ethiopian government. The line is planned as the first step in a wider national and eventually regional rail network. In June 2012,ERC signed a $1.7billion turnkey contract for Turkish firm YapıMerkezi to build a 389 route-km line starting at Awash on the Djibouti – Addis Ababa line and running north to Weldiya/Hara Gebeya. Completion is planned for April 2018. China Communications Construction Co is building the next 220 km north from HaraGebeya to Mek'ele under a $1.5 billion contract. A line is also planned to run from Hara Gebeya eastwards to the port of Tadjurah in Djibouti, providing a second route to the sea.