The Chinese-built 756 km electrified rail project connecting landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti will start commercial operations in October, said the Ethiopian transportation minister has announced.
Speaking to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Ahmed Shide, Minister of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Transportation, said the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway is a showcase of China’s support for Ethiopia’s efforts to transform its economy through infrastructural development.
Shide says Ethiopia is currently doing test runs on the railway and is finalizing preparations to form a joint venture company with Djibouti to manage it.
The Ethiopia Railways Company had confirmed in May that the test runs will comprise a total of 30 locomotives – fifteen each for passengers and freight will be used for the test.
“We hope the rail project will facilitate expansion of industrial manufacturing and boost Ethiopia’s competitiveness by significantly cutting time needed for Ethiopia’s exports to reach Djibouti port,” he added.
More than 95% of Ethiopia’s trade passes through Djibouti, accounting for 70% of the activity at the Port of Djibouti.
The standard gauge international railway is expected to cut transportation time needed for goods to reach Djibouti port from the Ethiopian hinterland and vice versa from at least two days to 10 hours.
The rail line will also provide a passenger service, with an average speed of 120 km per hour and a single coach holding 118 passengers at a time.
The electrified and environmentally-friendly rail will also replace a diesel-powered Addis Ababa-Djibouti line.
The first 320 km of the rail project from Sebeta to Mieso was carried out by China Rail Engineering Corporation while the remaining 436 km from Mieso to Djibouti port section was built by China Railway Group.
The two Chinese firms have been contracted to oversee the railway line for the next five years as local employees are trained to takeover in due course.
Kola Tella with Xinhua report