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Ethiopia-Djibouti railway winning hearts of passengers

Over two months into its commercial operation, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has brought much cheer and optimism to Ethiopian passengers.

Alemu Mersha, a young businessman traveling from Addis Ababa to Ethiopia’s second largest city Dire Dawa, is one of the passengers aboard the train on Sunday, which he said is an “advantageous way to do business.”

The 756-km railway, which officially commenced its commercial operations for both passenger and freight services between the two countries in January, connects landlocked Ethiopia to its neighboring Red Sea nation of Djibouti.

According to Alemu, the business is not as usual since the railway commenced its operations, both in terms of its affordability and time efficiency.

“There were times that I had to travel via airplane from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa and vice versa whenever I had tasks at hand to accomplish within a short period of time,” said Alemu, complaining about the huge amount of money spent on the journeys.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway currently charges less than 25 US dollars for a two-way passenger service from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa, while an airplane service costs at least 130 US dollars.

Alemayehu Leyew, another passenger who is experiencing his first rail travel to Djibouti with his wife for recreation purpose, said the rail travel is much more comfortable than he previously thought.

“This is my first time to use a rail service for transportation,” he said. “It feels great and it’s also comfortable.”

Alemayehu also urged to scale up the railway to connect other parts of the East African country.

“We need to scale up the rail transportation service into every corner of the country so as to speed up our country’s modernization process,” Alemayehu said.

Saliya Mohamed, an Ethiopian captain at the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway transportation service, told Xinhua on Sunday that the feedback from the passengers is “very positive so far.”

“Our customers are very happy and the number of customers is increasing very much,” she said.

The railway, contracted by two Chinese companies China Railway Group (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), is currently managed by a consortium of Chinese companies for a period of six years.

Wang Tao, Human Resource Department Head at the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Rail Transport share-company, told Xinhua that enabling local professionals to take over the railway transportation system is underway.

According to Wang, the railway service will be completely managed by locals within the coming few years as the knowledge transfer procedure is effectively underway.

Ethiopian professionals who are taking part in the knowledge transfer also said both theoretical and practical training is helping them become the pioneer rail transportation professionals in the East African country’s recent history.

“We are so glad to take this opportunity because it’s a new system for us,” said Saliya Mohamed, who envisaged to become a rail captain in the near future.

Ethiopia has also recently commended the electrified railway’s freight services, which has the capacity of transporting 106 containers in a single route.

According to the share-company, the railway has transported over 2,000 containers of commodities from the port to central Ethiopia during its first two months of operations.

According to Tilahun Kassa, director of Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Rail Transport company, the linkage between the Djibouti port and Ethiopia’s Modjo dry port has shown early achievements and is expected to further expand Ethiopia’s export and international trading.

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