Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway

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Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway
Map of Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway.png
Map showing the new standard gauge line.
System Heavy rail
Status In trial service
Termini Sebeta, Ethiopia
Port of Doraleh, Djibouti
Opened 5 October 2016 (5 October 2016) (Ethiopia)
10 January 2017 (10 January 2017) (Djibouti)
Line length 756 km (470 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification Overhead line 25 kV AC
Operating speed 160 km/h (99 mph)
Highest elevation 2,356 m (7,730 ft)
Route map
Addis Ababa - Furi-Labu
Addis Ababa - Kaliti
Dirē Dawa
Ali Sabieh
Nagad - Djibouti City
Port of Doraleh
Comparison between the two lines
  New standard gauge line

The Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway is a standard gauge international railway that links Ethiopia's national capital of Addis Ababa with Djibouti City and the Port of Doraleh on the Gulf of Aden,[1] providing landlocked Ethiopia with railroad access to the sea. More than 95% of Ethiopia's trade passes through Djibouti, accounting for 70% of the activity at the Port of Djibouti.[2][3] Trial service began on the railway in October 2016, and regular services are expected to begin in 2017.[4] The railway has reduced cargo transit times from three days by road to twelve hours by train.[5]

The railway replaces the abandoned Ethio-Djibouti Railway, a metre-gauge railway that was originally built by the French between 1894 and 1917.[6] The new line was built from 2011–2016 at a cost of US$4 billion by two Chinese state-owned enterprises, the China Railway Group (CREC) and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.[7] The two companies have also formed a consortium to operate the railway for the first 3–5 years.[8]


The Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway runs parallel to the abandoned metre-gauge Ethio–Djibouti Railway for most of its length.[6] However, the standard-gauge railway is built on a new, straighter right-of-way that allows for much higher speeds. New stations have been built outside city centres, and the old stations have been decommissioned.[9][10] The line is double-track for the first 115 km from Sebeta to Adama, and single-track from Adama to the sea.[11]

The railway begins in Sebeta, just outside of Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian capital is served by two stations located in the outskirts of the city, at Furi-Labu and Kaliti. Both stations are at a distance of about 10 km from the southern end of the Addis Ababa Light Rail, which gives access to the city centre.

Departing the Ethiopian capital, the line skirts Mount Furi in a wide curve before turning east. At Bishoftu, it crosses over the Addis Ababa–Adama Expressway for the first time. The line then runs southeast alongside the expressway until reaching Adama, where it turns northeast towards Dire Dawa. At Awash, there is a junction with the Mek'ele–Awash Railway, which is still under construction as of 2017.

After passing Dire Dawa, the railway heads directly for Djibouti. Crossing the border between Dewele and Ali Sabieh, it reaches the Djibouti passenger terminal at Nagad railway station, near Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport. Freight trains continue to the Port of Doraleh on diesel power.


As the Ethio–Djibouti Railway deteriorated from a lack of maintenance, Ethiopia lost railroad access to the sea. The existing metre-gauge railway had been originally built by the French between 1894 and 1917, so it had all the deficiencies of a colonial-era railway, with steep gradients and tight curves.[12] Since China was financing the construction of a standard gauge railway network in East Africa, Ethiopia and Djibouti chose to abandon the metre-gauge railway and build a new standard gauge link.[citation needed]

In 2011, the Ethiopian Railway Corporation awarded contracts to two Chinese state-owned companies for the construction of a new standard gauge railway from Addis Ababa to the Djibouti border. The 320 kilometres (200 mi) stretch from Sebeta to Mieso was awarded to the China Railway Group,[13] and the 339 km section from Mieso to the Djibouti border was awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.[14] In 2012, Djibouti selected the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation to complete the final 100 km to the port of Djibouti.[15]

In 2013, loans totalling US$3 billion were secured from the Exim Bank of China, with US$2.4 billion going to the Ethiopian section of the railway and the balance to be spent in Djibouti.[16] Additional funding was secured from the China Development Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.[17] The total costs of the railway amounted to US$1.873 billion for the Sebeta-Mieso section, US$1.12 billion for the MiesoDewele section and US$525 million for the DeweleDoraleh section.[18]

20,000 Ethiopians and 5,000 Djiboutians were hired for construction work.[19] Track-laying was completed on the Mieso–Djibouti segment of the project in June 2015.[20] Although construction was still in progress on other sections, the completed portion of the railway was put into emergency operation in November 2015 to carry grain to drought-stricken Ethiopia.[21][22] Farmers in Ethiopia had suffered crop failures of between 50% and 90%, and the port of Djibouti was backed up with ships waiting to unload grain.[23]

The completed Ethiopian section was formally inaugurated on 5 October 2016 in the new Furi-Labu railway station in Addis Ababa, by the presidents of Ethiopia and Djibouti.[24] The two prime contractors have formed a consortium to operate the railway for the first 3–5 years, while local personnel are trained.[18][25] On 10 January 2017, the 100 km section of Djibouti side was inaugurated[26][27] in a ceremony held in the new Nagad railway station[28] by Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopia’s prime minister Hailemariam Dessalegn,[29] and the director general of the International Union of Railways (UIC), Jean-Pierre Loubinoux.[30]


The Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway was built to the Chinese National Railway Class 2 Standard.[31]


The railway is powered by overhead catenary at 25 kV AC. Electrification ends after the Djibouti–Nagad passenger station. To avoid interfering with cranes at the port, freight trains switch to diesel power between Nagad and the Port of Doraleh.[citation needed]

Power is transmitted at 230 kV and 130 kV to eight substations. Traction power is supplied at 40 km intervals, with 17 stations in Ethiopia and three in Djibouti.[34]



Type Quantity Manufacturer Notes Sources
HXD1C electric locomotive 35 CSR Zhuzhou [35]
Diesel locomotives 3 CNR Dalian [36]

Rolling stock

Rolling stock was built by Norinco in China and by Metals and Engineering Corporation in Dire Dawa.[34][37]

Passenger coaches are built on the China Railway model 25G design, decorated with national Ethiopian colors. There are four types: coach, couchette, sleeping and dining car.[citation needed]

To meet modern railway standards, braking performance has been improved. As temperatures and solar radiation in the area can vary greatly between night and day and from high mountain to the sea, in order to prevent aging caused by thermal shock and by high ultraviolet light in the plateau environment, all components — rubber, cables and others — have been specifically designed, using laminated glass for blocking more than 90% of UV penetration.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Ethiopia – Djibouti high speed railway finally completed". CGTN. 17 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Meseret, Elias (5 October 2016). "Ethiopia's new coastal rail link runs through restive region". Associated Press. 
  3. ^ Maasho, Aaron (17 December 2011). "Ethiopia signs Djibouti railway deal with China". Reuters. Ethiopia and Djibouti's economies are reliant on each other with about 70 percent of all trade through Djibouti's port coming from its land-locked neighbour. 
  4. ^ "Ethiopia: Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway to Start Trial Service". 29 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "Ethiopia: Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway Officially Completed, Creating High Speed Link Between Djibouti and Ethiopia". Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (Djibouti). 10 January 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Blas, Javier (27 November 2013). "Chinese investment triggers new era of east African rail building". The Financial Times. This line, whose building started several months ago, runs parallel to the abandoned Imperial Railway Company of Ethiopia track built between 1894 and 1917. 
  7. ^ "Chinese-built railway helps propel Ethiopia's industrialization drive". 2 October 2016. 
  8. ^ Yewondwossen, Muluken (22 December 2016). "Two Chinese firms to overseas Ethio-Djibouti railway". Capital Ethiopia Newspaper. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  9. ^ "Ethiopia has a lot riding on its new, Chinese-built railroad to the sea". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 October 2016. 
  10. ^ Vaughan, Jenny (10 March 2013). "China's Latest Ethiopian Railway Project Shows Their Growing Global Influence". Agence France Presse. But he said that if the old train ceases to operate, it will be a great loss for Ethiopia and for Dire Dawa, the commercial town in northeastern Ethiopia where the main train station and workshops were headquartered. The new station is slated to be built just outside Dire Dawa, a town renowned for its French atmosphere. "Dire Dawa will suffer," said Josef, who is now the director of the French cultural centre in the city. The train station -- known locally as "la gare" -- and the workshops still stand, unused for years. 
  11. ^ "China's CREC to complete section of Ethiopia's key railway project". China Daily USA. Xinhua. 19 May 2015. The Sebeta/Addis Ababa-Mieso railway project covers a total length of 329.145 km. The Ababa-Adama section is a double track with 114.73 km length while the Adama-Mieso is a single track covering 214.145 km. 
  12. ^ "Briefing Memorandum: The Djibouti-Ethiopia Railway" (PDF). ICA Meeting: Financing Transport for Growth in Africa. 3–4 December 2007. According to the results of the rehabilitation pre-feasibility study, sections of the railway are laid at steep gradients and have curvatures that require modification in order to use upgraded locomotives at full capacity. 
  13. ^ "Chinese, Ethiopian firms sign railway project deal". China Daily USA. Xinhua. 26 October 2011. The Ethiopian Railway Corporation and the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) on Tuesday signed an accord that enables the latter to construct railways that runs from Sebeta town, some 25 km away from Addis Ababa up to Mieso town in the east of Addis Ababa. The total distance of the railway project covers some 320 kms, according to the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC). 
  14. ^ Berhane, Daniel (18 December 2011). "Second Chinese company signs up for Ethio-Djibouti rail route". Horn Affairs - English. China Civil Engineering Construction Cooperation (CCECC) signed an agreement on Friday for the construction of the second half of the new Ethiopian – Djibouti rail route. ... The cost of the project is estimated about 1.12 Billion USD – about 3.3 million USD per kilometre. 
  15. ^ "Contract signed for final section of new Djibouti - Ethiopia railway". Railway Gazette. 16 February 2012. The government has awarded China Railway Construction Corp a contract to build its 100 km section of the new standard gauge railway which will replace the out-of-use metre-gauge line from the coast to Addis Abeba in Ethiopia. Announcing the US $505m contract covering the Djibouti section of the route on February 15, CRCC said work was expected to take 60 months. The contractor will arrange Chinese financial support for the project. 
  16. ^ Yewondwossen, Muluken (27 May 2013). "Ethiopia, Djibouti secure $3 bln loan for railway project". Capital Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) and the Djibouti government have secured nearly three billion dollars loan from the Chinese Export Import (EXIM) Bank for the construction of the railway project that stretches from Addis Ababa to Djibouti. 
  17. ^ Maasho, Aaron (17 December 2011). "Ethiopia signs Djibouti railway deal with China". Reuters. CCECC and China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) have won tenders for other sections of the 656-kilometre build. Those companies have brokered loans for Ethiopia from China's EXIM Bank, Development Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Getachew said. 
  18. ^ a b Yewondwossen, Muluken (5 September 2016). "Chinese companies nab Djibouti railway project". Capital Ethiopia. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  19. ^ "Ethiopia-Djibouti railway sets new model for China-Africa cooperation". Xinhua. 5 October 2016. 
  20. ^ "China's CCECC completes track laying of Ethiopia- Djibouti railway". Xinhua. 13 June 2015. Archived from the original on 14 June 2015. 
  21. ^ "Ethiopia – Djibouti railway carries first freight". Railway Gazette. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015. 
  22. ^ Harper, Mary (23 November 2015). "Can Ethiopia’s railway bring peace to Somalia?". BBC World Service News,. Retrieved 23 November 2015. 
  23. ^ Jeffrey, James (15 August 2016). "Ethiopian Food Aid Jammed Up in Djibouti Port". Inter Press Service. 
  24. ^ "Ethiopia – Djibouti railway inaugurated". Railway Gazette. 5 October 2016. 
  25. ^ "From builder to teacher -- China brings railway expertise to Africa". Xinhua. 4 October 2016. 
  26. ^ "China-built railway linking Ethiopia and Djibouti officially opens for business". Shanghaiist. 12 January 2017. 
  27. ^ "Ethiopia: Portion of Ethio-Djibouti Railway to Be Inaugurated Tomorrow". 9 January 2017. 
  28. ^ Vasudevan Sridharan (11 January 2017). "China-built rail network in African heartland inaugurated". International Business Times. 
  29. ^ "Djibouti inaugurates railway link to Ethiopia". 
  30. ^ David Briginshaw (12 January 2017). "Djibouti inaugurates new line to Addis Ababa". Rail Journal. 
  31. ^ "首条全套"中国标准"电气化铁路非洲铺轨竣工_新闻中心_专题专栏_走出去_国际业务动态_中国铁建股份有限公司, approximately: The first full set of "China Standard" completed the laying of African railways electrified railway". 中国铁建股份有限公司 (China Railway Construction Co., Ltd.). Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  32. ^ a b c "Project Description: Addis Ababa – Djibouti Railway" (PDF). 
  33. ^ 总裁办公室 (CEO's office). "浙江众合科技股份有限公司 - 众合科技为非洲首条中国标准电气化铁路保驾护航 (Zhejiang Zhonghe Science & Technology Co., Ltd. - Zhonghe Technology Secures China's First Standard Electric Railway in Africa)". Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  34. ^ a b "Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Line to Start Early 2016". DP World Doraleh. Capital. 4 October 2015. 
  35. ^ Molinari, Michele (3 June 2015). "Ethiopia turns big plans into reality". International Railway Journal. Archived from the original on 24 June 2015. 
  36. ^ "CNR Dalian locomotives exported to Ethiopia". Railway Gazette. 22 March 2014. 
  37. ^ "METEC begins assembling railway carriages". Ethiopian News Agency. 16 February 2016. 
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