Ethiopia: Train Derailment Results in Over 200m Br in Damage

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An Ethio-Djibouti Railway cargo train that derailed three weeks ago in East Shewa Zone of the Oromia Regional State caused an estimated 200 million Br to 300 million Br in damage.

A 53-wagon cargo train of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway derailed on April 4, 2019, some 15Km from the town of Metehara, while travelling from Addis Abeba to Djibouti. The derailment of the cargo train and damage sustained by the tracks has completely suspended all railway transportation between the Port of Djibouti and the capital.

The accident occurred at 3:00am and is reported to have been caused by flood damage the train tracks suffered following a heavy rainstorm in the area. Two of the electric locomotives and three of the flatbed wagons are reported to have been total losses, while 16 other wagons were derailed off the tracks and will require repairs.

Gobeze Buta, a representative of the CEO of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway, declined to comment on the issue, saying the cause of the accident and scale of the damage is still under investigation.

"Until the investigation is completed, I cannot comment on the accident," Gobeze told Fortune.

Though the Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway S.C, owned by both the government of Djibouti and Ethiopia, has issued no official announcement, reports by sources close to the case have emerged that verify the accident and the derailment of 19 flat wagons and two electric locomotives.

The latest accident is not the first for the Ethio-Djibouti Railway, according to Fortune'ssources, who revealed that another accident occurred about a month ago near Minjar Shenkora, North Shewa Amhara Regional State and that the accident was not publicly disclosed by the company.

Built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC), the 756Km railway system has been in operation since January 2018. The railway, which cut travelling time between Djibouti and Addis Abeba from three days to 12 hours, was constructed under the authority of the Ethiopian Railway Corporation at a cost of 4.2 billion dollars. It is reported that 70pc of the financing was secured from the Export-Import Bank of China.

The railway extends from Sebeta, 19Km west of the capital, to Djibouti's Doraleh Container and Oil Terminal.

After the railway system was inaugurated in December 2017, the Ethiopian Railway Corporation handed over the project to Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway S.C, the operator, which was established in April 2017 by a bilateral agreement signed on December 16, 2016, between Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The two Chinese companies involved in the construction of the project, CREC and CCECC, were retained by Ethio-Djibouti Railway to manage and run the railway system for a period of six years at an annual fee of 60 million dollars.

The railway mainly transports imports and exports from the capital to the Port of Djibouti, where 90pc of Ethiopia's international trade takes place, which is responsible for 70pc of the total activity at Djibouti's port.

Since the accident, the railway has been out of service.

Tibebu Terfe, safety and security department director at Ethio-Djibouti Railway, confirmed to Fortunethat the train has not commenced operations on April 20, 2019, when this paper went to print.

"I don't know when the railway system will resume its operation," Tibebu toldFortune.

The train was stopping at Modjo Dry Port twice a day, unloading imports before the accident, according to Girum Getu, planning and monitoring senior officer at Modjo Dry Port.

In the period between March 29 to April 4, 2019, before the accident, there were 1,409 20-foot containers and 620 40-foot containers that arrived at Modjo Dry Port, according to figures supplied by the Port. For the period between April 12 to April 18, 2019, that number shrank to 355 20-foot containers and 515 40-foot containers that arrived at the Port by truck.

One expert suggested high speed and load factors as a possible cause of the accident. The expert also stated that alternative railway tracks were supposed to be planned in case of accidents.

"When railway operations cease, they affect the economy," commented Eshetie Berhan (PhD), a lecturer for nearly two decades at the Addis Abeba Institute of Technology's School of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering. "It will affect the logistics flow of the country."

CEO of Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway S.C Tilahun Serka did not reply to Fortune by the time this paper went to print.

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