22 February 2014

Ethiopia: Existing Railway Service Halts Operations Over Dispute With METEC

The increasingly fragile Ethio-Djibouti railway line has temporarily halted the service stretching from Dire Dawa to Djibouti, The Reporter has learnt.

According to sources the line has been suspended due to wrangling over workers' salaries and wage payments.,

The Ethio-Djibouti Railway Enterprise manages the service but is struggling to maintain full operations, so workers were handed over to the Metals and Engineering Corporation (MetEC), which was tasked with wage payments. The enterprise's general manager, Ta'eme Teke, confirmed to The Reporter that the service is temporarily suspended, but he declined to explain the reason behind the disruption. He rather referred the case to the Dire Dawa branch office of the railway.

According to sources, MetEC demanded 2.5 million birr from the enterprise to use for wages.

The Reporter's repeated attempts to reach MetEC's corporate communications officials were unsuccessful at the time of going to press.

Similarly, further attempts to get the reaction of branch office manager, Abdulaziz Mohamed, were not successful, and he was not willing to comment on the matter via telephone.

"I can not comment on this issue via telephone. Even if we are supposed to comment on it, I cannot say anything to the media by myself, as it should only be treated by a committee" he told The Reporter on Friday afternoon.

The railway has been transporting people to and from Dire Dawa to Djibouti, with the capacity to transport around 1,000 people in one trip.

The railway has recently signed a new agreement with National Cement to transport cement to Djibouti port and carry red ash from Metahara.

The country's oldest railway line, built during the time of Emperor Menelik II, has encountered various problems on the route that stretches from Addis Ababa to Djibouti port. It has been more than a decade since the Addis Ababa-Dire Dawa railway line was damaged. In recent years the Italian firm Consta has carried out repair works on the French-built track, which suffered damage during the Ogaden war in the late 1970s, but it remains largely outdated, underused and dilapidated.

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