Ethiopian attendants participate during the opening ceremony of Ethiopia-Djibouti railway at the Lebu station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Oct. 5, 2016. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese-built 756-km electrified rail project connecting landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti officially started commercial operations on Monday with a ceremony held in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.
Contracted by two Chinese companies, the first 320 km of the rail project from Sebeta to Mieso was carried out by the China Rail Engineering Corporation (CREC), while the remaining 436 km from Mieso to Djibouti port section was built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
Speaking on the occasion, Ahmed Shide, Ethiopian Minister of Transport, hailed the standard gauge project as a milestone in China-Africa cooperation.
In addition to further enhancing economic ties as well as the people-to-people links between Ethiopia and Djibouti, it will have significant contribution to the ongoing development efforts of building a new Ethiopia, said the minister.
The minister urged local people, especially residents living by the line of the rail, to take care of it for its successful and sustainable operation.
Emphasizing on its huge significance and importance, Tan Jian, Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, noted that the project would contribute to the industrialization and diversification of the Ethiopian economy, and also towards the country's growth and transformation plan.
"It is the first trans-boundary and longest electrified railway on the African continent. We, the Chinese, see this as earlier harvest project of the Belt and Road initiative. It is regarded by many as a lifeline project for both countries, for Ethiopia and for Djibouti. And we see this as a railway of development; as a railway of cooperation; and as a railway of friendship," he said.
The ambassador has reiterated China's commitment to further cooperating and closely working with Ethiopia and Djibouti to the railway's smooth operation.
The Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway project has been carried out with an investment of 4 billion U.S. dollars, and China's Exim Bank has provided a loan.
Speaking on his part, Djibouti Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Idriss Farah, said the railway project would have significant contribution to the economic integration between Djibouti and Ethiopia.
"This is important corridor, important railways between Djibouti and Ethiopia; we are working for our economic integration between our two countries. And this project was part of the economic integration, but not only economic integration but also connecting the peoples of Djibouti and Ethiopia," said the ambassador.
The railway provides both passenger and freight services between Addis Ababa and Djibouti.