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Addis Ababa Light Rail is the cream of the crop

By Mulatu Alehegne
Tigrai Online, November 04, 2013

Track laying for the Addis Ababa Light Railway Transit project was officially commenced last month putting an end to all the talks of those who have routinely been claiming that the project is a pipe dream.

The Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit project is an electrified light rail transit system with a total length of 34.25-kms (North-South line 16.9-kms and East-West line 17.35-kms).

The two lines which are the North-South and East-West lines use common track of about 2.7-kms with a Standard Gauge of 1.435 meters and double track for the whole route.

Out of the total 32-kms main line of the phase one project, some 7.6-kms is covered with bridges which would be constructed in six locations.

Once completed which would be 1 1/2 year, AA-LRT will have a capacity of transiting 80,000 passengers per hour.

One of the special features of the Project is that it performs on steep gradient and sharp curves and the fact that it is environmentally friendly as it reduces carbon dioxide emission.

Trains with a capacity to carry around 300 people will start work in the first phase of the project completion.

The railway is said to be relatively free of noise and air pollution, uninturrepted by power outages and also equipped with handicap friendly technology. The Railway will utilize electronic ticketing system.

The trains will have a capacity to carry 317 passengers at a time and arrive at stations every six minutes. The speed of the trains is estimated t about 70 km/h.

The official launch of the track-laying on the Torhailoch - Hayat route was a symbolic event signifying the realization of the decades old dreams of the residents of Addis Ababa and re-affirming the fact that Growth and Transformation Plan(GTP) is on track.

At that historic moment, the Mayor of Addis Ababa, Deriba Kuma has said that the progress assures that the construction of the light railway will be completed according to schedule.

Mayor Dirma said that:

“The event is a unique historic happening for it is the first in hundred years”.

As Ethiopian Railway Corporation CEO Dr. Getachew Betru noted at the event the standard gauge, which is of European technology, was laid in Ethiopia for the first time.

Once the laying of the standard gauge is completed, works like electrification, signaling and the like will be carried on.

The total cost of the railway project is 475 million dollars (over 142 billion birr) of which 85 percent is obtained from Exim Bank of China.

Though the Chinese company CRBC took the contract for the construction of the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit project, the Ethiopian company METEC plays a major role signifying the growing local capacity and technology-transfer component of the project.

The Ethiopian Rail Ways Corporation has proposed nine colors for the trains which will be determined based on public opinion, which will be conducted using cards bearing the available choices at five locations in the city. That is: At Legehar Rail station compound, the former Arategna Kifletor compound, Railway Project Office around Hayat and Head Office of Ethiopian Rail Ways Corporation.

The color that is chosen by majority would be taken for the trains to be used in Addis Ababa.

The Addis Ababa Light Railway Transit project, despite its significanse, is not the only mega project launched to transform Ethiopia's economy and advance the social-economic stride.

The 756 kilometer-long electrification project, linking Addis Ababa to the Port of Doraleh in Djibouti, is another priority project of the GTP.

The Ethiopian section of the project is now more than 25 percent complete; and Djibouti launched construction of the 100 kms line within its territory last month..

With the China Railway Engineering Corporation building the 317km segment from Sebeta to Meiso, the 339km from Meiso to the border town of Dawale, and the third 100kms to the port of Doraleh, more than a quarter of the work is completed while the rest is progressing as per plan.

The Addis Ababa Djibouti line will have 17 major stations and pass through Debre Zeit, Adama, Metehara and Dire Dawa.

Of which, the 107kms from Addis Ababa to Adama will be double track and the remaining 549 kms will be single track.

It is now certain that the new Ethiopia - Djibouti Railway line will be finalized within the Growth and Transformation Plan period by 2015.

These project are part of the two-phased plan unveiled in 2010 to construct a 4,850 long railway, with 8 main rail routes and expected to connect about 49 towns, under the purview of the newly established Ethiopian Railway Corporation.

A 656 km long rail route that stretches from Sebeta, near Addis Ababa, to Dewele, which is located near the border of Djibouti, is amongst them.

Not to forget, the old 781 kms railway line from Dire Dawa to Djibouti that has been maintained and started operations a few months ago.

All these endeavors in the railway transport should be put in context.

In our country, the dominant mode of transport is road transport, having a share of 90% in transporting passenger and cargo transports across the country.

And, that has been the focal point of the government for the last two decades and continues to be so.

As Transport Minister Workneh Gebeyehu stated a few weeks ago, the activities undertaken over the last 16 years in the sector enabled the country to raise the road coverage to 70 per cent.

The total length of road in the country has reached over 86,000-kms due to the enormous investment and commitment of the EPRDF led government.

In the past years Ethiopia invested more than 142 billion birr in the road sector.

However, despite what the detractors routinely claim, the main source was not foreign donation. Of all the total amount spent, 77 percent was by the government.

One of the major works in that regard is the two roads linking the Addis Ababa-Adama Expressway with Addis Ababa City into two directions.

The 28.1-km roads Addis Ababa-Adama Expressway is being constructed at a cost of more than 4.2 billion birr allocated by the government of Ethiopia and loan obtained from Chinese Exim bank.

Another major example is the construction and renovation of 1,700-kms roads carried out in the Benshangul -Gumuz State with over 172 million birr in the last twelve months.

Now, as result of the works, the once marginalized region now have 3,000-kms roads.

Three times to what used to be 20 years ago!

Similarly, the capital city Addis Ababa, which has long been horrible in its roads network has seen a major leap unprecedented in her recent history.

Addis Ababa has constructed more than 1,219- kms road in the last five years with more than 10 billion birr budget.

Now, Addis Ababa's road coverage has reached 15.64 per cent raising the network to 4,148-kms of which 2002- kms is asphalt , 727-kms cobblestone and the remaining 1,419- kms is gravel.

In the processes,  the city created jobs for more than 50,000 youths and women in cobblestone road construction.

The same can be said with regard to other sectors of the transport industry.

The government owned Ethiopian Air Lines serving people local and abroad remains as one of the best air line in Africa and continues to be a reputable enterprise in the world.

The Ethiopian Airlines serves more than 25 airports locally and above 48 international links such as in Africa, Europe, Middle East and America.

As its Chief Executive stated recently:

Ethiopian Airlines is the largest cargo operator in Africa with six dedicated freighter aircraft. Ethiopian is currently operating two Boeing 777-200 LR freighters, the first to be operated in Africa, two MD-11, and two Boeing 757 freighters out of two hubs — our main hub Addis Ababa and Liege, Brussels.

The B777F is the most technological advanced aircraft with ability to connect any two points in the world carrying 103 tonnes of cargo with reduced fuel consumption and less emission. This is especially good news for exporters of perishable goods such as flowers, vegetables, fruits and meat. Ethiopian B777F has the ability to maintain cold temperatures of up to 4 degrees centigrade, allowing perishable goods reach their destination maintaining their freshness and quality.

Today, the airline operates to 25 cargo destinations in Africa, Middle East, Europe and Asia. Having a vast cargo network — 15 in Africa, seven in Middle East and Asia and two in Europe — Ethiopian operates in major trade lanes between Africa and Europe, Middle East and Asia, providing a convenient and reliable cargo service to and from the continent.

Boosted by the growth of perishable exports from Ethiopia, the airline is now expanding its cargo network and fleet and aims to set up cargo hubs in Central, West and Southern Africa to cater for the growing need for reliable and affordable air cargo transport to and from the continent.

Ethiopian cargo is at the final stage to be one of the seven business units of Ethiopian aviation group. By 2025, Ethiopian plans to uplift 820,000 tonnes of cargo using 15 jet aircraft.

To support the airline’s fast growth and achieve its goal in continuing to be the leading cargo service provider in Africa, existing facilities are also being upgraded and new ones are being built.

We have begun the construction of a large cargo terminal (both dry and perishable) with an annual capacity of 1.2 million tonnes, and will be one of the biggest in the world. The perishable part of the cargo terminal will be, in terms of capacity, bigger than that of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport or the Dubai Flower Centre.

The construction will be conducted in two phases, each with a capacity of 600,000 tonnes. In the meantime, Ethiopian has recently inaugurated an additional perishable cargo storage facility with a capacity of 65,000 tonnes per annum to cater for the ever-growing export of perishables from Ethiopia.

There is also another transport - the shipping transport.

Ethiopia's marine transport is serving across the world. It continues to work in import export and coastal carrier services through its 8 ships being competent in the stiff competition of the globe.

Ethiopia also bought 9 new ships including oil tankers to strengthen the economic benefit it derives from the sector.

In addition to this, the marine and transit service enterprise, as a government entity, performs cargo handling, harbor facilities and services. In line with this, private transit companies also offer similar services in the sub sector.

In order to oversee all the above mentioned transport means - except Shipping and Maritime enterprises - the Transport Authority is recently established as regulatory body with the aim to promote an efficient, adequate, economic and equitable transport system, to ensure that public transport services are safe and comfortable, to develop domestic and international network, and so forth.

In conclusion, let me cite a testimony from the recent report by the IMF:

“The heavy investment in roads has paid off as the total road length has increased by a third (from about 36 thousand kilometers to about 49 thousand during the PASDEP period).

 The road condition has improved (with the proportion of roads assessed as being in good condition having increased from 64 percent to 81 percent during the PASDEP period), and the access to all weather roads has improved.”