Ethiopian Railway to start operation this week amid fragile security situation
Ethiopia’s first railway line was built by The Imperial Railway Company of Ethiopia by French contractors in the 1890’s with a close follow up of one of Ethiopia’s most visionary monarch, Emperor Menelik. It connected the capital Addis Ababa to port of Djibouti.
After 120 years, Chinese built electric railway line between Djibouti and Ethiopia, which covers a distance of 760 kilometers,656 kilometers is within Ethiopian border, was inaugurated last year and is going to be operational starting January 3,2017. With regard to tariffs, local newspaper Addis Fortune wrote :
- Commuters travelling to Djibouti will pay a 0.69 Br tariff for a kilometre, while the Corporation will charge freights 1.14 Br for a tonne, the Corporation said.
Ethiopian Railway Corporation announced a 50 percent discount offers for the first two weeks of the operation.
The new Ethiopian railway tracks are built parallel to the old Ethio-Djibouti railway line which will no longer will be in use. Like the old one, the new railway line is cargo and passengers. The train is said to travel at a speed pf 120 kilometers per hour which will reduce travel time between Addis Ababa and Djibouti from three days to about twelve hours. Two Chinese companies are involved in the construction of the railway : China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC)
Over 70 percent of the $4.2 billion US dollar funding ( BBC report puts the funding to $3.4 billion) for the project itself is no-interest free loan from Export-Import Bank of China, which is also a big lender for Ethiopian Airlines expansion projects, among others.
Before the line is open for the public, a Chinese company was undertaking trails for nearly a year, according to local news sources. The railway will have Chinese crew, a practice that has become very common in Ethiopian Airlines too ; most of the flight to Asia are said to have Chinese crews.
The train service will be available to Ethiopian cities along the railway line as well. The challenge is the security situation is not reliable after what many in the opposition described as TPLF manufactured ethnic conflict between Oromo speaking Ethiopians and Ethio-Somalis brought about chaos to a significant portion through which the railway line passes. The ruling TPLF government relate the conflict to khat trade in the region.
Cover photo : Screenshot from CCTV video on YouTube channel
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