All Aboard! Africa’s first electrified railway from Addis to Djibouti begins commercial operations

8 Jan 2018

The Ethio-Djibouti railway line has started commercial operations for passengers and freight.

The launching ceremony on 1st January 2018 was attended by high-level government officials, including the Chinese and Djiboutian Ambassadors.

The railway, which is Sub-Saharan Africa’s first electrified railway, connects Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa with the port of Djibouti. Travel time will be cut from around 3 days to 10 hours.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Berhanu Beshah, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Railways Corporation, said the railway, Ethiopia’s national flagship project, could be a model for modern transport industry.

Ahmed Shide, Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport, hailed the project as a milestone in China-Africa cooperation as well as in the history of Ethiopia’s and Africa’s transport sectors.

In addition to further enhancing economic ties as well as people-to-people links between Ethiopia and Djibouti, it will make a significant contribution

to the ongoing development efforts of building a new Ethiopia, said the minister.

Commending China as well as other stakeholders for their contribution towards the successful realisation of the rail project, the minister urged local people, especially residents living by the line of the rail to take care of it for its successful and sustainable operation.

Ambassador of China to Ethiopia, Tan Jian, noted that the project would contribute to the industrialisation and diversification of the Ethiopian economy, and also towards successful implementation of the country’s growth and transformation plan.

“It is the first trans-boundary and longest electrified railway on the African continent. We, the Chinese, see this as earlier harvest project of the Belt and Road initiative. It is regarded by many as a lifeline project for both countries, for Ethiopia and for Djibouti. And we see this as a railway of development; as a railway of cooperation; and as a railway of friendship,” he said.

The ambassador has reiterated China’s commitment to further cooperating and closely working with Ethiopia and Djibouti on the railway’s smooth operation.

The Djibouti Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Idriss Farah, said the railway project would make a significant contribution to the economic integration between Djibouti and Ethiopia.

“This is an important corridor, important railways between Djibouti and Ethiopia; we are working for our economic integration between our two countries. And this project was part of the economic integration, but not only economic integration but also connecting the peoples of Djibouti and Ethiopia,” said the ambassador.

…fares announced

According to Engineer Tilahun Farka, Director-General of Ethio-Djibouti Railway Transport Share Company, the tariff for passengers is 0.68 birr per kilometre. The tariff from Addis Ababa-Djibouti on a hard seat is 503 birr, while travellers on sleeper classes will pay 671 birr for the upper, 922 birr for the middle and 1,006 birr for the lower beds. For VIPs where each room accommodates two bunk beds, upper bunk beds cost 1,258 birr, while the lower ones cost 1,341 birr. (Note: Please check online for fares to other destinations)

Freight rates start from $0.051 per kilometre for a tonne of goods.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti project was constructed with a total investment of almost $4 billion and is the first modern electrified railway line in East Africa.

The project is jointly owned by the governments of Ethiopia and Djibouti and constructed by China Railway Group and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

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