Light rail serves 45m passengers in first year

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Over 45 million people took a ride on the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (AA-LRT), over the past 14 months.

The trains began running on September 20, 2015, so people who run the system are assessing the first year of progress.

Awoke Mulu, Public Relations Head of AA-LRT, told Capital that the transport system has been improving over the past year.

Awoke said initially the AA-LRT were using containers in some ticket stations and most of the ticketing centers were not connected with electric power, which made the operation more difficult in the evening.

“Now most of the operation has become more efficient. 12 ticket centers are connected with electric system and other four centers will be electrified soon,” he added. The total ticket centers are 39.

“As a beginner we have accomplished the year with success but we have to improve some of our operations,” Awoke said.

Daily revenue has reached 400,000 birr. He said that the main target of AA-LRT, which is under the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC), is not revenue but alleviating the transportation shortage in Addis Ababa.

Tickets currently cost two, four and six birr depending on the distance of the trip.  Even though the fee is small hopes are that the system will eventually become profitable. “Ticket prices are based on a detailed study and we expect fares to remain in place for a while,” he said. One of the issues the system faces is that some board the train without purchasing a ticket. The corporation will soon add 40 ticket controllers and more will be hired in the future. Another problem that occurs is when trucks or automobiles run over the tracks and force the trains to stop.

Awoke said that trains do require maintenance but they have enough spare parts and they rarely suffer heavy damage. There are a total of 41 trains and up to 26 trains provide service every day.

He said that on average a train reaches a station every 15 to 20 minutes. “Based on the public awareness the speed of the trains will be improved from the current 30km/hour and the arrival of trains to their terminal will be reduced to 6 minutes as per the initial schedule,” he explained.

“Safety is a priority for us so the speed will be improved gradually,” he added.

The AA-LRT, which has received international attention has consumed close to half a billion USD. It was constructed by the Chinese state owned CREC, which manages the operation with Shenzhen Metro Group.

The management contract will be finalized within two years and an Ethiopia crew will completely take over the operation. From the total cost of the project 85 percent is covered by a loan from the Chinese government, which also supported the first cross country heavy electric railway line that connected Ethiopia with Djibouti.