These days regional integration has almost ceased to be a matter of choice for a nation. It is unthinkable to live isolated due to the direct and indirect impacts of globalization. It seems why the African Union (AU) has been making this issue at the forefront of its critical agendas of the continent.
In this regard, the organization has been striving to connect all African countries first at regional level so as to pave the way to its long term dream to create The United States of Africa. Bearing this fact in mind, almost all member states of the Union have been, since then, trying their best to fulfill their responsibilities irrespective of their differences in determination.
As to sources, regional integration is the process by which two or more nation states agree to co-operate and work together to achieve peace, stability and wealth or enter into an agreement in order to upgrade cooperation through common institutions and rules.
Ethiopia, as the seat of the continent, has taken feasible actions in this regard. It has been as a result, constructing various cross country infrastructure such as power, roads, railway transport among others.
The construction of railways is among the other worth mentioning projects at the front line of the nation. This is quite a new technology to the country's transport infrastructure in its many features. The country, has as part of its commitment, established a responsible organ the 'Ethiopian Railway Corporation', as to the Council of Ministers Directive No 141\2007.
The purposes for which the corporation was established are to build railway infrastructures, to operate cargo and passenger railway transport services among many others. Following to that, the nation has been, practically undertaking various activities on the ground. The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line is by now the noteworthy one that comes at the front line in this regard.
As could be known from the corporation, in an event held in Diredawa to discuss with kebeles', weredas' and zonal representatives from Mieso and Dewanle organized to raise their awareness on the dos and don't s with regard to railway transport, the project's trial time is already finalized and it would therefore start officially on January 08, 2018.
The line extends 762 Kms from Sebeta a City adjacent to the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa to Negad of Djibouti. 760 kms of the line rests in Ethiopia while the remaining 92 Km is within Djibouti. Regarding the rolling stocks, it could be learnt from the corporation that there are 35 electrical locomotives, 6 diesel and nearly 1100 boxcars. While the rail width (track gauge) is said to be 1,435 Millimeter standard gauge, it has 27.5 kv overhead line electrification.
The project was constructed in two contract sections (parts) and the 329 km which is extended from Sebeta to Mieso is the one. 115 km of which that is extended from Sebeta to Adama is double lined. The rest 214 km, from Adama to Mieso is single lined. The second contract was that of Mieso-Dewanie-Djibouti. This has also two parts; Mieso to Dewanie which is 341 km and the next Dewanie to Djibouti 92km.
CCECC and CREC are Chinese companies (contractors) which took the design and construction works of the projects. CIECC was the other Chinese company which took the task of inspection.
As stated during the occasion, 120 and 100 km\hr are the highest speeds allowed for passengers and cargo respectively. On the other hand, its carrying capacity is 3500 tones. As to the corporation, a given train with 30 boxcars is thought to transport 2800 passengers.
While the total cost of the project is 3,707,813,770 $, that of Sebeta-Mieso has cost 1,841,470,000, Mieso-Dewanile 1,401,800,000 and the rest 46,454,377 for inspection works. As could be understood during the occasion, 70 percent of the total budget was covered by the loan the government of China granted to Ethiopia and the rest 30 % by the Ethiopian government.
The Addis Ababa- Djibouti rail line is the first ever modern with standard rail width in the country. It is highly expected to make Ethiopia, a landlocked nation, closer to sea by connecting the Metropolis with the port of Djibouti. The port of Djibouti is more than a mere port to Ethiopia as it entertains the lions' share of the country's import and export. For instance, in 2016, it has covered 90% Ethiopia's trade exchange.
The new railway project is of multifaceted importance to Ethiopians apart from enhancing the transport sector. As was mentioned in the occasion, experience sharing and knowledge transfer are mentioned to be from among the other importance throughout the process. This in turn enables Ethiopian professionals in the field run such infrastructures on their own, independently. Moreover, it is thought that it would speed up thereby strengthen the import -export trade connection of Eastern Africa by linking Addis Ababa, Adama and Diredawa with the port of Djibouti. The rail transport would especially accelerate the produces that Ethiopia exports to the international market mainly coffee and sesame.
Furthermore, as the project is the fastest and first ever electrically operated in East Africa, it promotes the image of the nation. The other aspect of the new technology among others is that it is cost effective and easily repairable as opposed to the former French made diesel locomotive. In other words, it saves foreign currency, for instance it would save the foreign currency used to import diesel. As was expressed in the moment, one train replaces 64 tracks which carry 400 quintals each.
The Ethio-Djibouti rail line has also its own contribution in the creation of new towns at and nearby its terminals and the routes away from speeding up the trade links of the cities the line crosses through. According to the rail way corporation, the new rail line would shorten the transportation time that is currently taking days to 10 up to 12 hours.
The railway line would create job opportunities for more than 5000 Ethiopians when it becomes fully operational. In addition to that it would contribute to the enhancement of economic growth by increasing the movement of people along with promoting the people to people relationship among the peoples of Oromia, Amhara, Afar and Ethiopian Somali regions.
It was also noted that the technology has a great contribution to the environmental protection of green development by reducing global warming, noise pollution. As to the concerned bodies of the corporation it has also a share in reducing carbon emission as it is electric locomotive. Likewise, its probability to fire accident is quite low.
In the meantime, the water well drilling work for 12 train stations is already finalized, so the respective stations have, now, access to water. Besides, the effort to connect the route with Awash fuel tank is also under construction.
Having taken all these and other economic, social and political significances which are not mentioned here, it is equally critical to discuss and raise the awareness of the community by creating various stages thereby develop their sense of ownership at a grass root level. This is as critical as constructing the railway itself as it makes the society fulfill their legal and moral obligations.
In other words, though being able to finalize the construction related task by itself is a step forward, merely that cannot however, meet the mission and objective of the Ethiopian railway corporation for this on its own cannot be an end without ensuring a safe railway transport. In simple words, a lot has to be done in this regard to let all stakeholders such as customers, government, staff members, other competent service providers and the communities at large have common sense on that.
Meanwhile, if the sector has to be able to meet its targets, it was equally important to clearly state with law the duties of the stake holders who are assigned to operate the overall activities. That is why Ethiopia, under its 'Railway transport proclamation No. 1048\2017 and traffic and safety regulation No. 348\2015 has clearly indicated all the details in this regard. Accordingly, the society is expected to act in compliance with the rules and regulations already enacted and others which may be enacted ahead.
The recent event held in Diredawa can be considered as part of these efforts though quite a lot remains yet to be done by the corporation and all other institutions which have something to do with that this or the other hand.
The importance of safe railway transport, the basic principles of railway safety, the causes of fatal accidents and the basics of railway safety issues were the main ones the corporation has given clarifications on to the partakers of the occasion.
It was explained that risk prevention, being compliant to the rules and regulations, safety first, raising railway safety performance, accountability, commitment and sense of responsibility are the basic principles of railway safety.
As to the corporation, speed, comfort, safety and reliability are the manifestations of a modern railway transport service.
During the juncture, while the corporation expressed its being grateful for the heartfelt cooperation the community shown at all levels throughout the construction period, the participants on their part expressed that organizing such awareness creation events has multidimensional importance, however, the corporation is too late to do so as it is to officially launch the railway transport within a month. "You are telling us more about railway safety and safeguarding. Why do not you at the same teach the society what the importance of railway transport is in addition to telling what is expected from it? Now, half of the society living nearby the line does not have any know how about railway transport. You should have thought the community at the grass root level earlier through media," they furthered.
In the meantime, compensation and the creation of job opportunity to local residents were amid the other issues raised by the participants among others.
Pertaining to that, the corporation on its part expressed that it would continuously keep preparing such stages of awareness creation. And there may be additional jobs to be created that would be equally shared among the respective local communities besides those already created so far.
"It was on TV screen that we used to watch such a technology, but, now, we could see it here in our home, so I want to be very grateful to those who did so. Thus, we are highly determined to do whatsoever we are expected to do regardless of all possible challenges for it is ours. We will teach our society in all possible ways" an old religious father emotionally expressed.
It is recalled that the Ethio-Djibouti railway has been giving trial (test) service since October 29, 2017.