Many countries have railway systems in major cities which greatly aid in transporting the public. There are subways and metro; and then there is the light railway. One of the many problems we have in Ethiopia, especially in Addis Ababa, is inadequate transport system. This problem has gotten worse in the last couple of years.
Every morning, people queue and wait for their turn to get a taxi everywhere in the city. Actually, it is not just every morning; people form lines to use public transportation at any time of the day. But the problem has left a lot of room for improvement in the transport system.
Of course improvements are seen all over the city including the construction of new and paved roads. But what good are the roads if there isn’t an adequate transportation system? Some time has passed since the new Anbessa buses graced us with their presence, but most of them have just replaced the old ones, meaning we don’t have more buses helping resolve the transport problem; we just have new ones. Good but not enough! Of course, there are countries in the west where buses are the main public transport system and they are available at bus stops every 2 to 3 minutes. Every time people stand at a bus stop, they know they wouldn’t have to stand there for hours, but we have to keep in mind that these countries are obviously ‘a bit more developed’ than ours.
One big ongoing project underway to ease the transport problem in Ethiopia is the Light Railway project. Yes, it seems that soon we will be traveling on trains like many people in other countries.
This mega project that begun in January 2012, is expected to have a big impact on the transport system as it will have the capacity to transport well over 60,000 passengers every hour. The rail system has two routes. The North-South route will begin from Menilik II Square and will terminate at Kaliti, while the East-West route will connect Ayat Village to Tor Hailoch. Additional lines from Menilik II Square to Shiro Meda to the North, Kaliti to Gelan, to the South and Tor Hailoch to Lebu, to the South West, will also be added to the design at a later date. The Light Railway will use electricity; and from what I know, currently electricity is one of those services that aren’t reliable in this country.
Meanwhile, needless to say that the 475 million dollar project has caused a bit of inconvenience like the road projects all around the city. There is digging, unmarked detours, temporary removal of historic statues, and sudden blocking of existing roads etc…
This is normal, they say; the road to transformation involves such uncomfortable situations and transformation is what Addis Ababa and Ethiopia as a whole is going through. As a modern city slowly rises up from the old, inevitable changes occur; temporary havoc and inconveniences will end and open the way to a convenient and simpler way of life.
Personally, I am not raising my hope too high for the Light Railway as once it goes operational, as I believe this particular mode of transportation, if not managed and maintained efficiently, can cause a lot more problems than it resolves. Another concern I have, pertaining to the LRT is that it will turn out to be very crowded. For example, looking at India, the inner city trains are so crowded that there is barely room to breathe and people are literally hanging on the side of the train as well. Now, I am not saying that this will happen here, but looking at some of the overly crowded buses in the city, one couldn’t but be concerned that a similar fate awaits the train. The Light Railway project is not the only one the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) is overseeing; it is doing the same for the National Railway Project which will connect the country through a criss-cross of eight railway corridors.
This railway project that will have Chinese imported tracks and trains will have a total length of 4,744km. So in the near future, trains in Addis Ababa will be as common as taxis and buses. I can only look at model drawings and use my imagination to see what the end result might be. It is true that Addis Ababa is going through a constant facelift. The Light Railway project is definitely one of many that will give Addis Ababa an everlasting makeover.