Addis Light Rail Project Seeing the Light of Day
By Mikias Sebsibe
Ethiopian Railways Corporation (ERC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China Railway Group Limited (CREC) for the construction of a 34.25Km Light Rail Transit (LRT) in March 2009.
ERC was busy in developing conceptual design; was assessing environmental impact and carrying out a feasibility study for the past two years.
Although soliciting funds for the half a billion dollars project proved somewhat a massive task for the Ethiopian government, it received a helping hand from EXIM Bank of China. “We have passed the mobilization stage and now entered into the implementation stage,” says Dr. Getachew Betru, Director of Ethiopian Railways Corporation. “There are no financial concerns now, so there will be no slippage on the project.”
According to the director, 15 per cent of the project cost (about 75 mln USD) advance payment is made to the contractor.
The Chinese contractor has already started construction works around Ayat Village; a plot where once served as a warehouse site for Ayat Real Estate SC.
Here, hundreds of Ethiopian and Chinese nationals were busy even during the Chinese New Year Day; Year of the Dragon. Construction of camp sites and office buildings are underway and when completed the area will serve as a depot for the light rail transit.
It is in front of this camp site on the road from Ayat to Megenagna (8Km) and from Meshualekia to Kality (10Km) that the contractor is launching its early start. Some portion of the median of Ayat-Megenagna road is now fenced.
“These sections are selected because there will be no major issues regarding right of way or public utility lines,” Dr. Getachew told WIC.
Preparation for a concrete batch plant is also underway at the former camp site and training ground of the premier league side Defense Force Football Club, off Meskel Sqare-Gotera road.
The two line rail tracks extend 17.35Km from east to west direction stretching from Ayat Village to Tor Hailoch. It passes through major parts of the city including Megenagna, Legehar and Mexico. In the north to south direction, a 16.9Km rail track will pass through Menelik Square, Merkato, Lideta, Legehar, Meskel Square, Gotera and Kaliti. The two directions will have a common track of about 2.8Km.
“The electronic light rail transit will provide a fast and reliable transport service,” Yehualashet Jemere, Project Manager of the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit, told WIC.
The LRT will travel 80Km/hour relaying on a 1,500V-DC supplied by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo). The manager says the project will have its own power station.
“Tickets will be sold electronically and passengers will only be charged based on the distance they traveled,” Yehualashet said.
Some 39 stations will also be built within a kilometer distance. The contractor has erected billboards showing the map of the rail track at locations where future train stations are expected to be built.
Addis Ababa’s growing transport problem has been a concern for the government. In May 2011 the Addis Ababa Transport Authority (AATA) launched the long awaited taxi zoning system. However, the problem continues to affect the public.
Many believe the light rail transit is the perfect antidote for the transport problem in the city.
Muferiat Kamil, Member of Parliament who chairs the Transport Affair Standing Committee, is one of them.
“The light rail transit will not only curb the transport shortage but also better the flaws in the transport sector,” she told WIC. The MP and other members of the standing committee were on a field visit to the project sites on Monday, January 23, 2012.
She expressed her satisfaction with the way the project is progressing after its commencement a few months back.
The Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit will have a total of 41 rails with a capacity to carry 286 passengers each, giving it the capacity to provide transportation service to 15,000 people per hour in one direction and 60,000 in all four directions.
According to a 2009 survey of the AATA close to 1.8 million people use various means of public transportations in just a day from locations where the light rail transit tracks is expected to be laid.
And the project manager says passengers would only have to wait six minutes for a rail to arrive at any given station when service begins.
“This is the initial plan, but for the future we are targeting 90 seconds of waiting time,” Yehualashet told WIC.
Apart from ticket sales, side businesses such as advertisements, mall rentals and carbon credit, will enable the corporation to generate revenues and repay its full debt in 10 years, according to the project manager.
“This is an environmentally friendly project with no carbon emissions, enabling us to generate more revenue from carbon credit. There will be no noise pollutions either,” he said.
ERC believes the project will also provide a huge opportunity for Ethiopian private companies with up to 70 per cent of the work expected to be done by Ethiopians.
“Local sub contractors will be doing much of the work including preparing the route,” said Dr. Getachew.
“We have a clause that provides for building local capacity in our contract. We will use Ethiopian unskilled and semi-skilled laborers as well as some expert level engineers we can find,” he told WIC.
The kind of agreement signed in September 2009 with the Chinese company (EPC turnkey contract), means both the design and the construction will be carried out by the same company. And liabilities such as those arising from contract variations and claims will also be borne by the contractor.
The Addis Ababa LRT is a two phased project. The second phase will extend the rail transit to the outskirts of the city from all four directions.
The 34.25 Km first phase project, planned under the Growth and Transformation plan, is scheduled to be completed in two and a half years.
“We are confident that the project will be completed within the time frame and we will strictly carry out our follow-up activity,” ERC’s director general affirmed.
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