Ethiopia has disclosed that its Chinese-built electric rail line will start commercial operations in October this year.
This follows an announcement in May this year about the commencement of test runs. The October date which was confirmed by the Transport Minister means it has taken a year to operationalize the 756-km stretch linking Addis Ababa and Red Sea state of Djibouti.
“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,” Ahmed Shide told the Xinhua news agency.
The Ethiopia Railways Company in May confirmed that the test runs will comprise a total of 30 locomotives – fifteen each for passengers and freight will be used for the test.
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The Ethio-Djibouti railway line was launched in October 2016 as part of efforts to open up landlocked Ethiopia to business. The date for commercial operations also suggests that the test runs were successful.
The Chinese built project was aimed at creating new manufacturing industries, improving transport and further opening up landlocked Ethiopia. The two countries in December 2016 announced a joint company to manage the railway line.
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Reports indicate that two Chinese firms have been contracted to oversee the railway line for the next six years as local employees are trained to takeover in due course.
An official of the management company disclosed that the test runs will be conducted in two directions between the capital, Addis Ababa and the eastern city of Dire Dawa then from Dire Dawa to Djibouti.
The standard gauge Ethio-Djibouti electrified double-track is expected to slash the journey time between the two countries to under 10 hours.
Ethiopia is seeking to have 5,000 km of new lines working across the country by 2020. The electrified and environmentally friendly project will also replace a diesel-powered Addis Ababa-Djibouti line.