By Yohannes Anberbir
The Export and Import (EXIM) Bank of China reached an agreement with the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) to finance its Light Railway Network project in Addis Ababa, a high government official who requested anonymity told Capital.
The bank already signed an agreement with ERC a few months ago. However, it still has to get the final approval of the Chinese government, the official said. The Commerce and Finance Ministry of China has a say in any financial agreements made by EXIM bank. In line with this, EXIM tabled ERC’s demand to the Ministry, which is expected to respond within the next four to six weeks, according to the official.
“The funding deal with the Chinese government is now at a final stage and will hopefully get the approval soon,” the official, who is closely involved in the deal, said confidently. He stated that the project can be launched in September as the Ethiopian government has completed all necessary preparations.
The light Railway Network project is expected to transport 20,000 passengers per day and is hoped to be a solution for Addis Ababa’s transportation problems.
The railway service has a so-called T-shaped segment. The first track heads from east to west and connects the Ayat roundabout with the Torhailoch ring road. The second track starts from Menelik Square and heads towards the Merkato Bus Station. It passes through Sebategna and Abenet and links up with the east-west line. After that, the combined track will continue towards Meskel Square and make a right turn in the direction of the Akaki roundabout.
With the project design already completed, ERC has awarded the project’s construction tender to the Chinese Railway Engineering Group, the official told Capital. Getachew Betru, general manager of the corporation, says he has no comments on the matter.
The Light Railway Network project is one of ERC’s two ambitious projects that plan to construct a 5,000 kilometer long cargo railway network connecting different parts of the country. ERC prioritizes the construction of the 2,000 kilometer railway line from Addis Ababa to the Djibouti Port and the Afar and Oromo region in the next five years. The additional 3,000 kilometer track to the Tigray regional state, the city of Gonder and the south will follow.
The Chinese government has also given its green light for the funding of the Addis Ababa - Djibouti project. In line with this agreement, ERC signed a contract with the Chinese Railway Corporation (CRC) two weeks ago in a bid to undertake the Addis Ababa-Me’eso Railway Projects, which is part of the line from the capital city to Djibouti.