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News: Ethio- Djibouti railway suffers from theft and vandalism, leading to heavy revenue loss

A train runs on the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway during an operational test near Addis Abeba,
Ethiopia, on Oct. 3, 2016. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)

By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne

Addis Abeba, December 07/2020 – Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) said the 752.7km Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, an electrified, standard gauge international railway linking Addis Abeba to Djibouti,was not performing to its potential due mainly to theft and vandalism. The railway has lost 114 million ETB in the first quarter of the current fiscal year only.

According to Tilahun Terefe (Eng.), head of the corporation’s rail safety and transport department, the speed limit of the trains has been reduced from 80 km per hour to 50 km per hour due to damages to the railway infrastructure. The trip from Addis Abeba to Djibouti now takes 18 hours, lagging by 6 hours from its previous arrival time. “The sector has lost more than 114 million birr in the first three months of the fiscal year,” Tilahun said.

This was revealed at a day-long forum held on December 05 in Adama, Oromia regional state. The forum aimed at creating awareness about the need to ensure the safety of the railway line and was attended by members of various sections of the community and security agencies from the areas the railroad cuts across: Oromia and Somali regions. Abba Gadaas, Ugazs, community leaders, members of the federal and regional police, as well as security forces were among the attendees. The community was requested to participate in securing the safety of railways to bring to justice those who steal and vandalize the railway.

 Tilahun Serka (Eng.), Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ERC, said during the occasion that the corporation has the forum in Adama in order to come up with lasting solutions to the continued damage the railway infrastructure was suffering. Tilahun explained that in areas where incidents of theft are high, fences have been put up covering up to 60 kms. However, putting up a fence covering the entire railroad distance was practically impossible due to financial limitations.  Tilahun also explained that herding livestock along the railway and breaking and entering the fence was the other major obstacles facing the railway.

Tilahun Terefe on his part said that currently the railway was carrying 25 percent of the country’s export and imports goods. In the first quarter of this fiscal year alone, more than 462,000 tons, including fertilizers, wheat, metal and other essential goods were transported through the railway.

Property damage to the railway was severe in Sebeta, Lume, Adama, Bosot, Fentale, Mieso, Bordode to Dewale routes, according to Tilahun. Accidents have also caused the death several people and hundreds of domestic animals.

Awel Wegris, State Minister of Transport, on his part said that community members lack awareness of the national economic benefit the railway brings in; preventing damages to the railway should begin by raising awareness.  Community members and members of security forces who took part in the forum pledged to do their share to ensure the safety of the railway line.

According to recent data, Ethiopia uses the port of Djibouti as the main portal for its internationally traded goods, accounting for 90% to 95% of its trade flow. The rail system began commercial operations in 2018 upgrading Ethiopia’s trade logistics which used to be carried out by trucks.

Up to 70 percent of the US$4 billion railway linking the capital Addis Abeba with neighboring Djibouti was built with loans from the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM). In September 2018, China agreed to restructure some of Ethiopia’s debt, including this one while its repayment was extended by 20 years. AS

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