Ethiopia has launched the construction of a new railway line that will link its market town of Awash with Djibouti’s port.

The project is contracted by China Civil Engineering Construction Cooperation (CCECC), further extending Chinese dominance in Ethiopia’s developing economy.

The landlocked country currently has two rail lines that connect the interior with Port Djibouti, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in the central-eastern part and the Awash-Kombolcha-Woldia railway in the north, that facilitate petroleum cargo services. The new project is part of Ethiopia’s vision of connecting strategic railway lines.

Ethiopian State Minister of Transport Awol Wagais commended the much-awaited project as a necessary addition to the East African country’s transport system.

Given existing long hard routes, a train tour from the Port of Djibouti to central Ethiopia usually takes three or four days, which “resulted in shortage of petroleum products in some parts of the country,” Wagais said during the groundbreaking ceremony at Awash.

However, “the just-launched construction project, unlike its predecessor, is expected to create a vibrant and inclusive trading center,” he said, adding “the desired petroleum products will arrive in their preferred place and place without any hurdles.”

The rail line, scheduled to be completed within one year, could carry two oil tanker trains per day and achieve an annual delivery capacity of 1.3 million tons in the near future. In the long run, its transport capacity would rise to six trains per day.

Guo Chongfeng, executive director and general manager of CCECC Ethiopia, stressed the socioeconomic advantages the project will bring to the country.

“When completed, it will significantly improve the efficiency of oil transportation, enhance the operation capacity of the oil depot, and relieve the pressure of oil supply in Ethiopia,” Guo said.

The project also includes the construction of Awash Station, which “will definitely become an important transportation hub and will also strengthen the connection between the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway and the Awash-Kombolcha-Woldia railway,” the Chinese executive added.

Echoing Wagais’ remarks, Tadesse Hailemariam, CEO of the Ethiopian Petroleum Supply Enterprise, said “I expect a lot from this project as this links a main rail with Awash Depot and again with the Horizon Depot in Djibouti so that the products could arrive inland.”

“The hinterland is very much affected by road transport. So, this minimizes cost, time and even (ensures) the quality of the product, because the issue of adulteration and evaporation or whatever cases will be minimized,” he told Xinhua.

As Ethiopia develops at one of the fastest rates in the world, the government has focused on expanding infrastructure to support its manufacturing industry.

In 2016, it launched the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, the first electrified transnational railway in East Africa, easing movement of goods and people across both nations while the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) project is projected to turn the country into a net exporter of electricity.

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