Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line opens for business

A Chinese-built 750km (450 miles) railway line that cost a little under US$4 billion aims to improve Ethiopia's transport infrastructure.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (Reuters) - This is the new railway line which Ethiopia hopes holds the key to its future prosperity.

The 750km line links Addis Ababa, the capital, to the Red Sea state of Djibouti which handles much of landlocked Ethiopia's imports and exports.

The US$4 billion (S$5.49 billion) line will cut the journey time between the two from a matter of days to just ten hours.

It replaces the existing line built by the French during the 1800s which is now barely functional.

Ethiopian railway officials say it's going to make a huge impact.

"It's part of the trans-African railway network so it will give an opportunity for connecting Ethiopia with other neighbouring countries and it will minimise the cost of the transport and the transport time and it's free from pollution, it uses renewable energy," said Ethiopian Railways Corporation Communications Manager Dereje Tefera.

The line's been built by the China Railway Engineering Corporation and China Civil Engineering construction.

Nearly three-quarters of the finance has come from a Chinese bank, the rest from Ethiopia's government.

China is also training the Ethiopian staff who will operate the line and its trains.

Ethiopia's economy's growing at a rate of at least eight per cent but poor roads and an ageing truck fleet have been a problem.

It's aiming to open up 5,000 kilometres of new rail lines across the country by 2020 to help keep the economy growing and turn the country into an African manufacturing centre.