Berhane Haileyesus is excited to board the Chinese built 756 kms Ethiopia-Djibouti electrified rail line even though he has been a regular customer of the rail service ever since it was commissioned in January 2018.
Contracted by two Chinese companies, the first 320 km of the rail project from Sebeta to Mieso was carried out by the China Rail Engineering Corporation (CREC), while the remaining 436 km from Mieso to Djibouti port section was built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
“I have used it many times and I found it’s convenient and suitable for my journey.” Berhane Haileyesus said on Wednesday.
“The weather is controlled by Air Conditioner, so I didn’t feel very hot or very cold. It’s a suitable weather condition, so I really like to choose the railway,” Haileyesus told Xinhua.
The railway, which connects landlocked Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa with ports in Djibouti, has garnered praise for its contribution in the transportation of people and goods between the two countries.
Since its operation almost two years ago, the Ethiopia-Djibouti electrified rail line has transported tens of thousands of people, providing passengers an affordable, safe and environmentally friendly transport services.
Speaking to Xinhua, Tan Jian, Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia, emphasized the crucial role the rail line has played in boosting landlocked Ethiopia’s foreign trade which has an estimated population of 105 million people, making it the largest populous landlocked nation in the world.
“This railway is very important to Ethiopia and Djibouti. Why, because Ethiopia is a landlocked country and 95 percent of Ethiopia’s import and export trade goes through Djibouti”.
“This railway is related to industrialization, urbanization and development with nine Ethiopian industrial parks out of 15 being located along the rail line. So, this is not just a line, this is a corridor and we do believe this corridor can be a game changer for economic development,” said Tan.
Already, Dire Dawa and Adama industrial parks, located 446 km and 99 km East of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, built by China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) have used the services of Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line for their import-export trade.
Tan, elaborating on the importance railway infrastructure has played in China’s rapid economic development said the same is possible for Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line.
The electrified rail line has already cut transportation time needed for goods to reach Djibouti port from the Ethiopian hinterland from at least two days to 10 hours.
Tan’s optimism on the Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line is shared by Tilahun Sarka, Director General of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Share Company (EDRSC).
“We started this operation in January 2018 and now we came across one and half years. The first-year operation was promising managing to move some 800 trains earning a revenue of 35 million U.S. dollars”.
Sarka further said EDRSC is working to make the Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line, especially the Addis Ababa starting section more accessible, so it can operate at full capacity in the future.
“Now, passengers from the city center of Addis Ababa are paying from 150 birr (about 5 U.S. dollars) to 200 birr, to reach Lebu, Addis Ababa train station. We’re working with Addis Ababa Public Bus enterprise to dedicate some shuttle buses in very affordable price to bring passengers to Lebu station”.
“In the long run, the accessibility of Lebu train station will be open to all modes, with private taxis and buses expected to compete with each other to attract passengers on their way to Lebu station. When they compete, this price will eventually come down,” said Tilahun.
Sarka further said the Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line has already managed to alleviate some of the burden on the road transport sector which had been tasked with facilitating Ethiopia’s foreign trade.
“In 2018, we managed to take 20 percent of the road traffic, the idea is to grow this cargo traffic volume to a minimum of 40 percent,” he further said.