Ethiopia is set to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s four major modern hubs along with South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya with the launch of its $3.4 billion electric railway line. The advanced railway transport will reduce hours spent on road transport which will further boost trade and movement across Ethiopia and Djibouti. Once the line is fully operational, it will be able to transport up to 5,600 people per day and carry up to 3,500 tons of goods at a time.
Ethiopia, a land locked country, majorly depends on Djibouti for its 95 per cent imports through the Djibouti port. The electric line links Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to the Red Sea port of Djibouti – a stretch of more than 750km (466 miles). The railway is a result, in part, of other unrest in the past. Ethiopia shifted its import focus to Djibouti after its border war with Eritrea between 1998 and 2000 created tensions that remain today
Traveling at 120km/h, the new service cuts the journey time down from three days by road to about 12 hours. The Ethiopian government is optimistic that the railway economic value will be realized across the country. The 656-kilometer (408-mile) railway inside Ethiopia, constructed at a cost of $3.4 billion, will shorten a three-day journey to just 12 to 15 hours.The railway was 70% financed by China’s Exim Bank and built by China Railway Group and China Civil Engineering Construction.
“This railway line will greatly reduce the travel time between the two countries and will contribute to the development of Ethiopia’s hinterland,” said Dereje Tefera, spokesman for the Ethiopian Railway Corporation. “It is an electrified system and environmentally friendly. This is what makes it different from other railway projects in Africa.” The officials hope that the railway will help ease road traffic from hundreds of trucks that transport goods daily.
The passenger trains – which will run each way daily – are to start in three months’ time and ticket prices are yet to be officially announced.
The railway section in Ethiopia, which was completed in three and half years, received
70 percent of its financing through China’s EximBank while the Ethiopian government covered the rest. Two Chinese companies were selected to carry out the construction, and the locomotives were imported from China. The track runs parallel to the abandoned Ethio-Djibouti railway, built more than 100 years ago. Chinese staffs were also instrumental in constructing the railway line. The railway will be managed by Chinese controllers, technicians and station masters for the next five year after which Ethiopians will be employed.
The railway is the first step in a vast 5,000km-long network of rail which Ethiopia hopes to build by 2020, connecting it to Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.