The Addis Ababa City Light Rail Transit began its test run early February ahead of its official launch in May. The test run is along the 9km Kaliti to Meskel Square section of the network, which will have two lines running 16.9 km north-south from Menelik Square to Kaliti and 17.4 km east-west from Ayat to Tor Hailoch, with a 2.7 km shared section between Lideta and Meskel Square.
According to Getachew Betru, chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC), personnel are being trained to operate and manage the new railways. So far, 19 of the 70 percent low-floor trams, which have a maximum speed of 70km/h, have been delivered, and the remaining 22 will arrive soon. The trams have tinted windows and rubber components to resist premature aging from the effects of strong sunlight at altitudes of 2,400m.
Boarding stations for passengers are also under construction, ready for the grand passenger launch in May. It will be the first city metro to operate in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 34km two-line network, which was constructed by the China Railway Group, will be maintained by China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and Shenzhen Metro Group under a $116 million 5-year contract awarded by the ERC last year. Construction of the $475 million project began in January 2012. Once fully operational, it is expected to carry around 60,000 passengers in all four directions, thus easing traffic congestion.
In another development, the 700km railway line linking Addis Ababa and Djibouti will open in the first half of 2016. The $4bn line, currently under construction, is part of the government’s plan to construct 5,000km of railway lines across the country by 2020.