BY ELIAS GEBRESELASSIE WOLDEGEBRIEL
After a long period of negotiation, a final signing ceremony for the Wediya- Mekelle 268 kilometers is to be signed early 2015, signaling the start of its official construction period.
Although a preliminary signing ceremony was held for the project in June 20121 between the Ethiopian government and the state-run China Communications Construction Co (CCCC) for $1.5 billion, it had been stalled because of difficulty in financing it and further environmental, design studies that needed to be done for this mountainous area. The financing is expected to come from Chinese sources.
According to a source with the Ethiopian Rail Corporation (ERC) the rail project which is an extension of the 375kms Awash-Weldiya, which hopes to connect Ethiopia’s vital central region to its rugged northern part.
These two rail sections also hope to also cut travel to Djibouti Port landlocked Ethiopia’s lifeline by 50 percent from Northern Ethiopia, is currently contracted by a Turkish firm Yapi Merkezi at an estimated cost of $1.7 billion.
Both Rail projects have single track line, are electrified, and will be used for freight and passenger transportation. Dereje Tefera Corporate Communications service head at ERC stated that there are no less than eight rail projects waiting for finances to start their construction.
He further stated that also countries like Russia and Brazil have previously shown in financing and participating in some of the projects, a combination of an unsteady world economy and internal economic difficulties have so prevented them from making concrete promises.
Dereje also revealed that The Indian government is contemplating the construction of 215 kms Asayta- Tadjourah Port (Djibouti) rail project. However he stated that the above two projects are to be given priority, for the moment, with their progress much ahead than this. The Ethiopian Government during the 2010-15 Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) stated its intention of constructing a 2,000 kms long rail lines to meet the country’s passenger and freight transportation demands.