The new Ethiopia-Djibouti line is the first step in a 5,000-km-long East African project.
Ethiopia is set to continue its steady progress as one of Africa’s leading economies following the official launch of commercial operations early last month on a new modern rail line linking the capital, Addis Ababa to Djibouti Seaport in Djibouti. Travelling at 120 km per hour, the new service cuts travel time between the two countries down from three days by road to about 12 hours.
The rail trip has three levels consisting of seats, one-bedroom and a VIP room with two bedrooms. The Ethiopia-Djibouti standard gauge railway is the first step in a 5,000-km-long network of rail Ethiopia hopes to build by 2020 to connect Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.
Financed and constructed by the Chinese, the 1,806.75 billion FCFA 756-km electrified line connecting landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti on the east of the continent handles more than 95 per cent of Ethiopia's trade and accounts for 70 per cent of Djibouti Seaport activities.
The new line replaces a French-built track that served for over 100 years before being abandoned in the early 2000s. The first 320 km of the new line from Sebeta to Mieso were built by China Rail Engineering Corporation, CREC; while the remaining 436 km from Mieso to Djibouti Port were constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC.
"The line will provide huge benefits to the industrial parks and modern farms that will be built in the future," Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at last month’s opening ceremony. Getachew Betru, chief executive of Ethiopia Railways, said it is was much cheaper and more reliable than travelling to Djibouti by road.