4 February 2018

Djibouti: Kuriftu Ceases Catering At Ethio-Djibouti Railway

Since last Monday, travellers are not being served any meal in 15 hours of travel to and from Djibouti

Kuriftu Resorts withdrew its catering services for passengers of the Ethio-Djibouti rail last Monday, following a decision by the Ethio-Djibouti Railway (EDR) S.C.

Kuriftu was providing meals and refreshments on board a trip from Addis Abeba to Djibouti since January 1, 2018, from the kitchen facilities in the trains. The Company has been providing the service without a binding agreement or contract.

Kuriftu had submitted a proposal to cater meals during the inauguration of the railway held last month. In its proposal, it also requested to engage in catering services at the railway stations.

"We've been providing the service for 10 days just to support them," said Roman Tafessework, new business development director at Boston Partners, operator of Kuriftu.

However, Kuriftu was providing the meals until last Monday when EDR wrote a letter to the Company informing it to cease its services. Kuriftu had been serving the meals for a fee covered by passengers.

"We ordered them to halt the service as they started it without following the proper procurement procedure of the country," Tilahu Srka, director general of EDR told Fortune.

Ethio-Djibouti Railway launched transport services early last month with a trip costing 0.69 Br a kilometre for passengers and 1.14 Br for a tonne of cargo for every kilometre. Passengers had been dining in the trains served by Kuriftu. Currently, they are not provided with any meal.

The Chinese-built electric rail line was expected to cut the travel time from Addis Abeba to Djibouti from three days to 12 hours but it actually takes 15 hours to reach Nagad. It also aimed to improve the logistics activity of the country as 90pc of imported items are transported through Djibouti. Ethiopia's imported goods also account for 70pc of the total activity at Djibouti's port.

"As the rail tracks are not fenced the movement of animals across the rails is affecting the speed of the trains," said Tilahun.

Officially inaugurated in October 2017, the railway line was constructed for 4.2 billion dollars, of which 70pc was secured from Export-Import (EX-IM) Bank of China. The Chinese firm, China Association of Railway Engineering Construction, had performed various trials for about a year until the end of November 2017.

The tariff was disclosed for four stations out of the 19 including Adama, Dire Dawa, Alsabeh and Nagad. The trains have three levels consisting of seats, one-bedroom and a VIP room with two-bedrooms. From the total stations, 16 are in Ethiopia's territory.

The trains depart to Djibouti every other day odd calendar day, while travellers from Djibouti arrive at Lebu station in Addis Abeba on even calendar days.

For now, the railway is not providing a permanent meal supply; instead, travellers are picking snacks such as sandwiches from the restaurants located in Lebu station. If they do not do as such from the departure point, they would travel for over 15 hours without any meal or drink.

"We haven't decided yet how we will manage the catering services; either we will do it by ourselves or outsource it to another company," said Tilahun.

The two companies which constructed the rail, China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) are also hired to manage the railway for six years with an annual management fee of 60 million dollars.

The railway, 756Km in length, extends from Sebeta to the Port of Djibouti. Except for the 100Km, the remaining rain line is within Ethiopia's borders. The 100Km rail in Djibouti extends to Doraleh Multipurpose Port, Doraleh Container Terminal and Oil Terminal.

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