ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The local communities residing along the Ethio-Djibouti electrified railway have been urged to collaborate with relevant bodies and play active role in the efforts made to ensure the safety and security of the Chinese-built standard gauge, which connects landlocked Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa with ports in Djibouti.
The call was made on Friday during the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway Safety Day marked on the premises of the Dire Dawa rail station in Dire Dawa town, about 452-km east of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.
Constructed by the two Chinese companies, namely, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and China Rail Engineering Corporation (CREC), the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway project commenced operation about two years ago, and has been providing fast and comfortable passengers and cargo services.
The railway has mainly garnered the praise for its contribution in the transportation of the much-needed imported agricultural inputs to the East African country.
Reiterating that the project is backbone of Ethiopia's import and export, speakers on the occasion have underlined the need to forge strong collaboration, particularly with the local communities to address safety and security issues and ensure the smooth operation of the railway.
The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway Safety Day was organized to, primarily, create and raise awareness among the residents along the railway lines about the safety and security on the project towards ensuring safe, effective and efficient operation of the railway.
The Director General of Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway (EDR), Tilahun Sarka, said safety is the most important part of the three key issues of the railway project, including safety, power supply and operation.
Recalling that it connects key economic corridors of Ethiopia to Djibouti port, traversing important towns, the Director General said such event of the day plays vital role in propagating the awareness issues to different parts of the line.
"Addis Ababa-Djibouti is a 751-km line between Djibouti and Ethiopia, and almost three-fourth of the line lies in the Ethiopian territory. And safety is the most important part of this railway. If the line is safe, the train can go. What are the safety threats? Number one is, we have many level-crossing whereby people and animal, they are just crossing the railway line unintentionally; so, this has to be protected; number two, there are sometimes also theft; some infrastructures are stolen by illegal people, and this is also another safety threat. The third one is animals are crossing, so they are colliding with the train; these all what I mentioned are controllable with the real participation of the community," he said.
Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Tan Jian reiterated the role the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway plays in boosting investment, industrialization, and infrastructure, while indicating that nine of Ethiopia's 15 industrial parks, including Dire Dawa Industrial Park, are located along the railway.
"And 95 percent of Ethiopia's trade, import and export goes through Djibouti port. So, this rail will help to turn the land-locked to land-linked. The smooth running or the management of the railway, I think, the first issue is the safety. There are some kinds of risks, or incidences like the crossing after railway, causing damage against the railway, I mean the cattle, the sheep are crossing, and also this kind of security, human security; and I believe that we need a support of the local community to ensure safety," the ambassador has noted.
Reiterating that the railway has garnered praise for its contribution in the transportation of people and goods between Ethiopia and Djibouti, the ambassador expressed China's planned support by providing some facilities and equipment for the railway to assist Ethiopia to fully tap the potential of the project.
Ahmed Mohammed Bouh, the Mayor of Dire Dawa, said the railway creates tremendous opportunities for Dire Dawa as well as the nearby villages and woredas (districts), while playing a vital role with the industrial parks and the whole economic sector of the region, by directly connecting them to the port.
"This train is very important for our life as Dire Dawa life always depends on the railway. So, people have to keep the train safe and look after it as their own because this is our train, connecting Addis Ababa through Dire Dawa to Djibouti. So, everybody is responsible in keeping our train, so that the people can transport their goods and their own self," the mayor has noted.
Guo Chongfeng, Executive Director and General Manager of CCECC Ethiopia, the railway spurs economic growth and improves people's life by helping people's travel, transporting goods, cities' development, and creating employment opportunities for the local people.
Stating that a railway is well operated only when the safety is guaranteed, Guo said that "our Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway needs the support from all of us, especially the communities along the rail line, to better serve the country's economy."
He has called for joint efforts of all stakeholders to make the railway safer, more efficient, and better positioned to serve the Ethiopian economy and people.