ETHIOPIA: Celebrations on February 1 marked the official launch of test running on the Addis Ababa light rail line, ahead of the planned start of revenue services in May.

Attendees at the launch included the Prime Minster, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs along with thousands of city residents. They were able to ride on the 9 km Kaliti – Meskel Square section of the network, which will have two lines running 16·9 km north-south from Menelik Square to Kaliti and 17·4 km east-west from Ayat to Tor Hailoch, with a 2·7 km shared section between Lideta and Meskel Square.

Mayor Driba Kuma said the US$75m project was ‘a testimony of fruitful journey towards Ethiopian renaissance’. China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group began construction in January 2012 under a contract signed in June 2009. China’s Export-Import Bank provided loans to cover 85% of the US$475m cost.

Huawei supplied telecoms and fare collection equipment, while CNR Changchun has supplied 41 three-section 70% low-floor light rail vehicles. These are designed to run in pairs at up to 70 km/h, and have tinted windows and rubber components specified to resist premature aging from the effects of strong sunlight at altitudes of 2 400 m.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn thanked the city’s residents for their patience during the construction of the line. He said that as well as solving transport problems in the city and reducing carbon emissions, knowledge and technology transfers involved would enable the country to use its own human resources in future rail projects.

  • Minister of Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said construction of the Addis Ababa – Djibouti rail project was also well underway, having crossed the Ethiopia-Djibouti border four weeks ago.