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Relief is on the way for Addis Commuters as they should be able to board the Addis Ababa light railway transit (AALRT) before the end of this fiscal year.
The under construction light rail is actually expected to be completed this month but it needs to go through testing and adjustments through April 2015, according to a source working with the project.
Early last week the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC), which oversees the project came to terms with the, Chinese public enterprise, Shenzhen Metro Group and China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC). They will be responsible for managing and maintaining the modern rail system for the next five years.
The agreement signed on Tuesday December 2 at the Sheraton Hotel says the Chinese firm will be fully responsible for managing the operation from three to five years.
According to Getachew Betru (PhD/Eng), CEO of ERC, the company will come with 42 percent of their own professionals from the total of 686 required staff for the operation.
According to sources, the Chinese firm is requesting a three month testing period before the LRT system is open to the public. So this means that passengers should be able to get on board by May 2015.
Officials of ERC stated that the two companies will get USD 116 million from the Ethiopian Railway corporation to manage the service.
If there are enough Ethiopian professionals with the capacity of maintaining the light rail then Chinese employees would leave. However if they are unable to grow enough internal talent the company from China will remain for five years.
Although the fares for the light rail have not been determined, Getachew says they will make sure commuters can afford to ride the city’s first public rail transportation.
The CEO says that the decision was made to outsource management of the rail line since it is new for Ethiopia.
Currently there are hundreds of Ethiopians being trained on rail technology in China.
To expand the skilled labour force the government has decided to establish an academy that will train a higher amount of rail professionals in the future.
A source stated that the corporation has already selected the location to built the academy. It will be in Gelan area, in the southeast of Addis Ababa.
Experts said that the Academy will be a big facility that will be established based on international railway academy standards.
Arkebe Ouqubay (PhD), adviser to the PM and board chair of ERC, said that the construction of the academy will begin during the current budget year.
He said that the Chinese government will support the project. Ethiopia is currently constructing a nation-wide railway project that will connect with Djibouti, the main hub for Ethiopia’s imports and exports.
The board chairman said that before the end of this year the corporation will also assign an international company that will manage the operation of the Sebeta-Djibouti railway line, which is expected to be completed by January 2016.
The AALRT project is about 34km. It connects the city from all directions through two lines; Kality-Piassa-Merkato and Tor Hailoch-Ayat.
CREC, which is constructing part of the Sebeta-Djibouti railway project, is the EPC contractor for the AALRT which commenced at the end of 2011.
Arkebe told Capital that the Awash-Weldya railway project which is being undertaken by the Turkish construction giant, Yapi Merkezi, has already begun on a small scale. During his speech, he said that the Mojo-Hawassa project will be awarded in the near future.