Addis Ababa Light Rail - a Jewel
of the Developmental Stride
Addisu Muluken 2-3-15
Testing of the Addis Ababa Light Railway
Transit trains was officially commenced last week in a colorful ceremony in the
presence of senior government officials, diplomats, other dignitaries as well
as residents here in Ethiopia’s capital.
Test rides with officials and residents on
board of the rails were conducted on 9 km distance between Kality and Meskel
Square. The main objective of testing the rail transport is to make sure that
the rail system functions properly and that it is safe and secure to go into
transportation service fully.
It was a historic happening for it is the
first in more than hundred years and is one of Ethiopia’s mega development
projects in the country’s five-year growth and transformation plan and putting
an end to all the talks of those who have routinely been claiming that the
project is a pipe dream.
The first railway was constructed in Ethiopia
with the purpose of linking the capital with the country's east coast and was
conceived during the time of Menelik II. After countless negotiations with
French, the agreement was reached on March 9, 1894 and the plan was to build
the railway from coast, Djibouti, to Entoto via Harar and then to the White
Nile via Kaffa according to Pankhurst (2006).
The Swiss and French Engineers jointly formed
a company in Ethiopia called Imperial Ethiopian Railway that became operational
in 1917 under a new name: Ethio-French Railway.
After more than a hundred years later, a new
history is on the making.
The 475 million dollar Addis Ababa Light Rail
Transit project, which was started in 2012 as a joint venture between the
Ethiopian government and Chinese companies, is an electrified light rail
transit system with two lines of total length of 32 km. 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.
The two line rail tracks stretching from Ayat
Village to Tor Hailoch passing through Megenagna, Legehar and Mexico are
17.35-kms long. From North to South, a 16.9-kms rail track will pass through
Menelik Square, Merkato, Lideta, Legehar, Meskel Square, Gotera and Kality. The
two directions will have a common track of about 2.8-kms. 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.
Ababa Light Railnow 57
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.
The railway is said to be relatively free of
noise and air pollution, uninterrupted by power outages and also equipped with
handicap friendly technology. The Railway will utilize electronic ticketing
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 to about 70 km/h.
The design stipulates that there will be 20
overpasses along both routes, of which six will have major roundabouts. These
major roundabouts would have some basic underground construction works that
must be done carefully. It will have some three thousand meter wide concrete
walls to be constructed.
Power traction works of the West-East Route
of the light rail transit from Megenagna to Ayat include installation of
electric poles and overhead wires to power the light rail vehicles as well as
construction of traction sub-stations, nine on each of the east-west and
north-south directions of the transit.
The light rail will rely on 15 kvs of power
supplied mainly from overhead wires. Power cuts will not be a concern for the
smooth operation of the transit as the LRT will have a dedicated power supply
through a grid system.
The rail network connectivity in Addis Ababa
will not only increase the beauty and make Addis Ababa competitive
internationally by enabling it to have modern transportation system but also
facilitate peoples mobility and trade. The construction of Addis Ababa's Light
Rail will give Addis its first mass transport system, transforming mobility in
a city where most of the people travel either by buses and taxis or on foot.
As it is observed in developed countries,
railway transportation is becoming a reliable and regular form of transport for
people and goods. In addition, train travel brings much safety, convenience and
comfort to passengers than other means of transportation systems.
However, in Ethiopia, so far most passengers
use road transports. Currently, there are vast movement of the people, huge
import and export of goods which are not efficiently supported by railway
transport. Railway transport, apart from facilitating transport need to support
In that context the Addis Light Rail is
expected to be of an important instrument as it will reduce the travel time
from the peripheries the city to the center to less than 2 or 3 minutes with
forty one trains rolling down the tracks to transport 60 thousand passengers
the project could bridge the gap between supply and demand in the city's
transport sector by offering more convenient and comfortable option to
passengers through environment friendly mode of transport.
Moreover, the project helped the nation to
apply world's first railway technology. The country has taken advantage of the
rich experience and expertise from those who advanced in railway infrastructure
development. This by itself is a big achievement. Hence, the government has
been making effort to transfer knowledge and technology by sending
professionals to China and through practical lesson from Chinese experts
working here. So, the next round railway infrastructural development tasks
would be performed by local capacity with limited assistance from partners.
Indeed, the project was an opportunity for
major technology and skill transfer to the country. 257 professionals had been
sent to China to acquire the latest skills and knowledge on railway technology
in trainings as rail masters (train drivers), technicians and those who will
work on operations, All of the trainees have now completed came back home
concluding their nine months training this month. Of the total trainees, some
136 are trained as train masters, 40 train dispatch and control, 70 in train
maintenance and eight train infrastructure development.
Other crucial parts of the project are still
ongoing. The South African firm Arup South Africa is preparing a Transit
Oriented Development (TOD) master plan for ten of the key stations that are
part of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system being built in Addis Ababa. The
firm is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers and technical
specialists that makes up the heart of the creative force of many of the
world's most prominent projects in the built environment and industry.
It has been awarded a contract by the
Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) to illustrate what activities, uses and
yield can be created around the new stations within a 400 meter radius.
Within this walkable node it needs to assess
if each place and loci can accommodate appropriate use and bulk development.
This forms part of the regeneration of a 125-year-old city with over 3 million
people. The firm will visualize these nodes and illustrate potential future
development, culminating in a broad based bankable approach, cognizant of costs
and the catalytic potential these nodes could have on the city.
As an expert of the firm elaborated to media:
"This is a typical African city and each
precinct has its own unique requirements and sense of place...the framework
must therefore look to short, medium and long-term approaches that allow for
flexibility and that can change over time as the node develops and matures...using
a multi-disciplinary approach, within a tight schedule of five months....an
exciting step forward in the future of city making".
The speedy completion of Addis Rail way
project was a product of strong political will and commitment from the
government, the technical and the residents of Addis Ababa. As Prime Minister
Hailemariam Desalgn pointed out at the pre-testing ceremony held Sunday: Addis
Light Railway Project has been undertaken through the relentless effort of the
The residents of Addis Ababa have been
patiently waiting for the launch of the railway despite the many transport
problems they had to face owing to the construction of the project, high
traffic jam has been observed on Addis routes which tempted patience of the
city residents. As the Prime Minister noted,“Here, I need to thank residents
of the city for the patience they have been showing and their contributions for
Indeed, a lot has been accomplished in terms
of expanding and upgrading the transport sector so as to meet transport demand
and alleviate the complicated social and economic problems the peoples of
Ethiopia had for a long period of time.
The Addis Ababa Light Railway Transit
project, despite its significance, is not the only mega project launched to
transform Ethiopia's economy and advance the social-economic stride.
With regard to railway construction, the
Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway project has been under construction with special
attention from the governments of both countries.
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, it has been reported that The Sebeta-Meiso section of the project is
progressing and Seventy per cent of the construction has been completed, while
the rest is progressing as per plan. Djibouti also launched construction of the
100 kms line within its territory last year..
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 to be recalled that the old 781 kms
railway line from Dire Dawa to Djibouti that had been maintained and started
operations last year.
Nonetheless, It is known that so far 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. In view of
this and to respond the high demand of transport in the country, a large
construction of roads is being conducted throughout the country both by the
Ethiopian Roads Authority and other government entities. In line with this,
private participation is also being encouraged to be evolved in the road
expansion. And by both efforts a distinct performance is achieved to create
facilitation of roads and road transport, liaising local towns, peoples,
industries, and liaising with neighboring countries for import export
facilitation in the country.
The government has given special attention to
the development of the sector since 1992. The Road Sector Development Program
(RSDP, 1997–2007) has two principal objectives: to reduce transport costs on
the road network and to create road access for the rural population and the
drought-affected areas. The program has two phases. The first phase was
implemented between 1997 and 2002. Its targets and achievements are shown
The total classified road network increased
by about 40% from 1997 to 2002, much of the increase being in regional roads.
The road density increased from 21 km per 1000 sq. km in 1994 to 30 km per 1000
sq. km in 2002.
By 2002, the total road network had reached
33,297 km, of which 4,053 km (12%) were paved and the remaining 29,244 km (88%)
gravel. Of the present classified road network, about 16,617 km are considered
part of the main road network, administered by the Federal Government, and the
remaining 16,680 km “rural roads”, under the Regional Rural Roads Authorities.
During the period of the Growth and
Transformation Plan, more than 11,000 km of road has been built and maintained
over the GTP period, out of the planned 14,000 km, marking an 81% overall
In general, 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
In the past years Ethiopia invested more than
142 billion birr in the road sector. 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
The other mode of transport is the Ethiopian
Air Lines – serving people local and abroad, with a motto Africa's link to the
world. This airline remains as one of the best airline in Africa and continues
to be a reputable enterprise in the world. It serves in more than 25 airports
locally and above 48 international links such as in Africa, Europe, Middle East
and America. With the aim to meet the increasing demand of the people it is expanding
its links with the world through its available aircrafts and additional leased
jets like the air bus, which is recently in use. It has a capacity of 364
people to carry. Being proactive to the coming fierce competition the airline
is changing itself with the world progress to remain lucrative and viable
Ethiopian Airlines operates and manages
Malawi Airlines after a deal signed in 2013 and has signed a memorandum of
understanding with South Sudan to help set up a national carrier for a country
which won independence in 2011. The Ethiopian carrier has a deal too with ASKY,
the West African airline, whose shareholders also include the ECOWAS regional
bloc of countries and a number of banks.
Ethiopian currently has a fleet of 77 jets,
including 10 787-8 Dreamliners. It was the first airline to fly the Dreamliner
commercially, has three more on order and wants to order more, including a
larger version of the 787.
The government owned Ethiopian Air Lines
serving people local and abroad remains as one of the best airline 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.
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.
It has 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 general, as the Minister of Transport
summed it up last week:
“By the commitment of our government and
direct participation of the public, our country has been registering fast
economic growth for the past ten years or so. Thus, it enabled the public
become beneficiary and contributed to reduce poverty at all levels.
In the nation's development journey, the
transport sector has decisive role in political, economic and political
activities. In relation to this, the government has given special attention to
the sector and executing multifaceted tasks.
The government has allocated huge budget to
make road accessible equitably, build airports, assist the Ethiopian airlines
to be competitive at international market, develop shipping lines and inland
port services through giving special attention to serve import and export