Ethiopia: Ethio-Djibouti Railway Partially Resumes Operation

The launch of the Ethiopian-Djibouti railway.

The Ethio-Djibouti Railway partially resumed operations three weeks after being derailed in East Showa Zone of the Oromia Regional State. However, the train will still not be able to travel during nighttime or during rainstorms.

The railway is now transporting cargo carrying wheat and fertiliser. It will not be able to transport passengers until a final decision is made by the Ministry of Transport.

The decision to allow the train to operate beginning on April 24, 2019, was made after a preliminary report was written by a team led by the Ministry. The team included experts from the Ethiopian Railways Corporation, the Ministry of Transport and the Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway. Another investigation, which is in its completion stage, is required before a decision on the long-term status of the train is made.

Before the accident, trains travelling along the railway line would stop at Modjo Dry Port twice a day. This rate has been halved since the accident now that trains have to spend the night at Dire Dawa and Adigala, a town in the Somali Regional State.

The accident that led to a three-week interruption of operations was a derailment of a cargo train in Fentale Wereda at 3:00am, while the train was on route to Djibouti from Addis Abeba. The cause of the accident was reported to be flood damage to the train tracks.

Two electric locomotives and three flatbed wagons were destroyed, while 16 other wagons were derailed, according to sources close to the case. The estimated cost of the damage is between 200 million Br and 300 million Br.

The train was being operated at the time of derailment by three Ethiopians and one train conductor from Djibouti, who started training on July 9, 2018.

Nonetheless, one month after the accident, there has not any public disclosure about the accident by officials.

The recent accident is not the first for the Ethio-Djibouti Railway, according to sources. Another accident occurred about a month ago near Minjar Shenkora, North Shewa Amhara Regional State.

The railway, which cut travelling time between Djibouti and Addis Abeba from three days to 12 hours, was constructed at a cost of 4.2 billion dollars, with 70pc of the financing secured from the Export-Import Bank of China. Extending from Sebeta, 19Km west of the capital, to Djibouti's Doraleh Container & Oil Terminal, the railway was inaugurated in December 2017.

It is operated by the Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway S.C, which was established in April 2017 by a bilateral agreement signed on December 16, 2016, between Ethiopia and Djibouti.

China Railway Engineering Corporation and China Civil Engineering Construction Company, which built the railway, were retained to manage and run the railway system by Ethio-Djibouti Railway for six years at an annual fee of 60 million dollars. The railway has 41 trains, 35 of which are for cargo.

The expert believes that the accident will have profound effects on the country's economy.

"Alternative railway lines should have been built that could have been used for transporting trains," said Eshetie Berhan (PhD), lecturer for nearly two decades at the Addis Abeba Institute of Technology's School of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering. "To minimise such accidents in the future, they should cooperate with the Meteorology Agency and apply real-time GPS."

Tilahun Serka, CEO of Ethio-Djibouti Railway, declined to comment on the issue.

The Ethio-Djibouti Railway has partially resumed operations three weeks after a train was derailed in East Showa Zone of the Oromia Regional State.

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