Theft and damage plague Ethiopia's national rail line

By CapitalEthiopia

Robbery of railway equipment in rural areas of the Sebeta—Addis Ababa—Djibouti railway project is being reported, and concerned by the incidents, the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) has disclosed that it shall take serious measures when it receives the system from the contractors.

The cross country project that commenced in the first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) period is now in its final stage.  For some time, the contractors have reported incidents of robbery and damage to equipment on the line and from warehouses at the project site.

Sources at China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) told Capital that some damage and robbery was observed on the railway track and on electric and telecom lines installed over the track. Some attacks on the warehouses at the site were also reported.

“The problem is not only robbery but also some intentional damage to the project,” sources explained. The issue was a central topic of discussions in a meeting between companies and ERC management, held on Monday September 14, according to sources. The two Chinese companies, CREC, contracted to construct the 317km Sebeta–Adama–Meiso line and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) that is constructing the 339km Meiso–Dire Dawa–Dewale line, have submitted letters of concern to relevant government bodies including security agencies and ERC.

They said that the reported damages will cause problems when the project becomes operational. According to sources, the most dangerous and damaging theft is of screw bolts that join the gauge with the slipper bars.
“The dwellers of the areas crossed by the railway line are not new to such facilities so I don’t expect that they will continue in such manner when the line starts operation,” Engineer Getachew Betru (PhD), CEO of ERC, told Capital.

“But we need to create awareness in the community,” he added. According to the CEO, one of the reasons for such attacks is the low level of control and surveillance while the line remains idle between the final stage of completion and beginning of operation.

Getachew emphasized that that he is well aware of the problem, and ERC is following up the issue with relevant government bodies, despite the contractors being responsible for the project at the current stage.
“We advised the contractors to involve the communities in the areas on the project, by providing  them with job opportunities and making  them stakeholders, ” he said. “They did not take our advice on the matter but we are seriously following up the issue, and trying to solve it,” the CEO explained.

Pictures at the office of the ERC’s CEO display significantly damaged parts, and the CEO is not taking the matter lightly. “Such damage will create grave accidents. The corporation will never see the issue as simple robbery, but will take serious measures when the line becomes operational,” he said.

He said that one of the major tasks for the contractor, who will manage the operation, will be security and safety, when the line becomes operational.

The project is currently it its final stages before completion and will be operational once electrification is complete. The 107km line from Addis Ababa to Adama is double track while the remaining 549kms of the line is single track rail.

Djibouti’s 92km railway line, constructed by CCECC at the cost of USD 550 million, is also nearing completion.