Information published on 16 January 2018 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 580.

Ceremony to launch commercial operations of the new Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway line held on 11 January 2018 in Nagad, Djibouti

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Jointly presided by Mr Mohamed Abdoulkader Moussa, Djibouti’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, and his Ethiopian counterpart Mr Ahmed Shide, Minister of Transport, the ceremony to launch commercial railway operations on the Djibouti-Addis Ababa corridor was held in Djibouti, at the new railway station of Nagad.

An important milestone has been achieved: passing from the project stage to the operational stage of the new railway line – an event eagerly awaited and looked forward to by the people at both ends. After a decade, trains can once again travel on the line. A major step has just been completed with the introduction of a modern electric train on the Djibouti-Addis Ababa corridor, with considerable advantages in the area of long-distance freight travel, both on a large scale and at a lesser cost, with greatly reduced journey times compared to road transport.

The work, which began four years back, was completed three months ago on the stretch between Djibouti and Addis Ababa. The railway once again plays an important economic role by adopting an appropriate strategy and a management policy focused on effective goals. Moreover, the Djibouti line remains the main supply route for Ethiopia. An estimated 13 million tonnes of supplies is imported into Ethiopia. According to available studies, this figure is set to double in the next 20 years. Despite the limitations of this line (capacity, accidents, saturation, congestion and pollution), efforts have been made in this commercial arrangement to ensure that there is complementarity between road and rail.

The operational phase which has just been inaugurated in Djibouti was preceded by a series of train tests which were performed between 2 October and 31 December 2017. During this trial period, the infrastructure, superstructure and rolling stock were tested in real operating conditions. The electric trains were operated at various line speeds and in different test situations (static and dynamic). The certification for the evaluation of rail security was presented (railway operating certificate) by a third party firm commissioned by the governments. In terms of capacity, the new line is estimated to carry four million tonnes of freight and two million passengers per year.
It is important to reiterate that temporary tariffs for passengers and freight adopted by the two governments are very competitive compared to road transport (an import rate of 0.051 USD per tonne kilometre and an export rate of 0.030 USD per tonne kilometre).

In addition, the two governments have entrusted the operation of the line to a Chinese group for a period of six years. A joint-venture company known as Ethio-Djibouti Railway (EDR) has been created, with shareholdings divided between Ethiopia (75%) and Djibouti (25%). The main role of this company is to monitor and manage the company, which will be in charge of the operations and be replaced in the longer term. The senior management is headquartered in Addis Ababa, with the main branch located in Djibouti.

(Source: Djibouti Railways SDCF)