Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway

This article is about the Chinese-built railway completed in 2016. For the French-built railway completed in 1917, see Ethio-Djibouti Railways.
Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway

Map showing the new standard gauge line.
System Heavy rail
Status In trial service
Termini Sebeta, Ethiopia
Port of Doraleh, Djibouti
Opened 5 October 2016 (5 October 2016)
Line length 756 km (470 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification Overhead line 25 kV AC
Operating speed 160 km/h (99 mph)
Route map
Addis Ababa-Lebu
Addis Ababa-Kality
Dirē Dawa
Adi Gala
Ali Sabieh
Djibouti - Nagad
Port of Doraleh

The Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway (Chinese: 亚吉铁路) is a standard gauge railway that links Addis Ababa with the port of Djibouti, providing landlocked Ethiopia with railroad access to the sea. More than 95% of Ethiopia's trade passes through Djibouti, accounting for 70% of the activity at the port of Djibouti.[1][2]

The railway was built between 2011 and 2016 by the China Railway Group and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation. Financing for the new line was provided by the Exim Bank of China, the China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.[3] A total of US$4 billion dollars were invested into the railway.[4]

Trial service began in October 2016, and regular services are expected to begin in 2017.[5] The standard-gauge railway replaces the abandoned Ethio-Djibouti Railway, a metre gauge railway that was originally built by the French between 1894 and 1917.[6]


For most of its length, the railway runs parallel to the abandoned metre-gauge Ethio-Djibouti Railway.[6] However, the standard-gauge railway is built on a new, straighter right-of-way that allows for much higher speeds. New stations have been built outside of city centres, and the old stations have been abandoned.[7][8]

The line is double-track for the first 115 km from Sebeta to Adama, and single-track from Adama to the sea.[9] The railway begins in Sebeta, just outside of the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa. Briefly entering the city of Addis Ababa to serve the main station, the line then skirts Mount Furi in a wide curve before turning east. At Bishoftu, it crosses over the Addis Ababa–Adama Expressway for the first time. The line then runs southeast alongside the expressway until reaching Adama, where it turns northeast towards Dire Dawa.

At Awash, there is a junction with the Mek'ele–Awash Railway, which is still under construction as of 2016. After passing Dire Dawa, the railway heads directly for Djibouti. Crossing the border between Dewele and Ali Sabieh, it reaches the Djibouti passenger terminal at Nagad, near Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport. Freight trains continue to the Port of Doraleh on diesel power.


As the Ethio-Djibouti Railway deteriorated from lack of maintenance, Ethiopia lost railroad access to the sea. The existing metre gauge railway had been originally built by the French between 1894 and 1917 and had all the deficiencies of a colonial-era railway, with steep gradients and tight curvatures.[10] Since China was financing the construction of a standard gauge railway network in East Africa, Ethiopia and Djibouti chose to abandon the metre-gauge railway and build a new standard gauge link.

In 2011, the Ethiopian Railway Corporation awarded contracts to two Chinese state-owned companies for the construction of a new standard gauge railway from Addis Ababa to the Djibouti border. The 320 km stretch from Sebeta to Mieso was awarded to the China Railway Group,[11] and the 339 km section from Mieso to the Djibouti border was awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.[12] In 2012, Djibouti selected the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation to complete the final 100 km to the port of Djibouti.[13]

In 2013, loans totaling $3 billion were secured from the Exim Bank of China, with $2.4 billion going to the Ethiopian section of the railway and the balance to be spent in Djibouti.[14] The total costs of the railway amounted to $1.873 billion for the Sebeta-Mieso section, $1.12 billion for the Mieso-Dewele section and $525 million for the Dewele-Doraleh section.[15]

20,000 Ethiopians and 5,000 Djiboutians were hired for construction work.[16] Track-laying was completed on the Mieso-Djibouti segment of the project in June 2015.[17] Although construction was still in progress on other sections, the completed portion of the railway was put into emergency operation in November 2015 to carry grain to drought-stricken Ethiopia.[18][19] Farmers in Ethiopia had suffered crop failures of 50-90%, and the port of Djibouti backed up with ships waiting to unload grain.[20]

The completed railway was formally inaugurated on 5 October 2016 by the presidents of Ethiopia and Djibouti.[21] The two prime contractors have formed a consortium to operate the railway for the first 3–5 years, while local personnel are trained.[15][22]


The Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway was built to the Chinese National Railway Class 2 Standard.[23]


The railway is powered by overhead catenary at 25 kV AC. Electrification ends after the Djibouti-Nagad passenger station. To avoid interfering with cranes at the port, freight trains switch to diesel power between Nagad and the Port of Doraleh.

Power is transmitted at 230 kV and 130 kV to 8 substations. Traction power is supplied at 40 km intervals, with 17 stations in Ethiopia and 3 in Djibouti.[26]



Type Quantity Manufacturer Notes Sources
HXD1C electric locomotive 35 CSR Zhuzhou [27]
Diesel locomotives 3 CNR Dalian [28]

Rolling stock

Rolling stock was built by Norinco and at the Metals and Engineering Corporation facility in Dire Dawa.[26][29]

See also


  1. Meseret, Elias (October 5, 2016). "Ethiopia's new coastal rail link runs through restive region". Associated Press.
  2. Maasho, Aaron (December 17, 2011). "Ethiopia signs Djibouti railway deal with China". Reuters. Ethiopia and Djibouti's economies are reliant on each other with about 70 percent of all trade through Djibouti's port coming from its land-locked neighbour.
  3. Maasho, Aaron (December 17, 2011). "Ethiopia signs Djibouti railway deal with China". Reuters. CCECC and China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) have won tenders for other sections of the 656-kilometre build. Those companies have brokered loans for Ethiopia from China's EXIM Bank, Development Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Getachew said.
  4. "Chinese-built railway helps propel Ethiopia's industrialization drive". October 2, 2016.
  5. "Ethiopia: Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway to Start Trial Service". 29 September 2016.
  6. 1 2 Blas, Javier (November 27, 2013). "Chinese investment triggers new era of east African rail building". ThHe Financial Times. This line, whose building started several months ago, runs parallel to the abandoned Imperial Railway Company of Ethiopia track built between 1894 and 1917.
  7. "Ethiopia has a lot riding on its new, Chinese-built railroad to the sea". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  8. Vaughan, Jenny (March 10, 2013). "China's Latest Ethiopian Railway Project Shows Their Growing Global Influence". Agence France Presse. But he said that if the old train ceases to operate, it will be a great loss for Ethiopia and for Dire Dawa, the commercial town in northeastern Ethiopia where the main train station and workshops were headquartered. The new station is slated to be built just outside Dire Dawa, a town renowned for its French atmosphere. "Dire Dawa will suffer," said Josef, who is now the director of the French cultural centre in the city. The train station -- known locally as "la gare" -- and the workshops still stand, unused for years.
  9. "China's CREC to complete section of Ethiopia's key railway project". China Daily USA. Xinhua. May 19, 2015. The Sebeta/Addis Ababa-Mieso railway project covers a total length of 329.145 km. The Ababa-Adama section is a double track with 114.73 km length while the Adama-Mieso is a single track covering 214.145 km.
  10. "Briefing Memorandum: The Djibouti-Ethiopia Railway" (PDF). ICA Meeting: Financing Transport for Growth in Africa. December 3–4, 2007. According to the results of the rehabilitation pre-feasibility study, sections of the railway are laid at steep gradients and have curvatures that require modification in order to use upgraded locomotives at full capacity.
  11. "Chinese, Ethiopian firms sign railway project deal". China Daily USA. Xinhua. October 26, 2011. The Ethiopian Railway Corporation and the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) on Tuesday signed an accord that enables the latter to construct railways that runs from Sebeta town, some 25 km away from Addis Ababa up to Mieso town in the east of Addis Ababa. The total distance of the railway project covers some 320 kms, according to the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC).
  12. Berhane, Daniel (December 18, 2011). "Second Chinese company signs up for Ethio-Djibouti rail route". Horn Affairs - English. China Civil Engineering Construction Cooperation (CCECC) signed an agreement on Friday for the construction of the second half of the new Ethiopian – Djibouti rail route. ... The cost of the project is estimated about 1.12 Billion USD – about 3.3 million USD per kilometer.
  13. "Contract signed for final section of new Djibouti - Ethiopia railway". Railway Gazette. 16 February 2012. The government has awarded China Railway Construction Corp a contract to build its 100 km section of the new standard gauge railway which will replace the out-of-use metre-gauge line from the coast to Addis Abeba in Ethiopia. Announcing the US $505m contract covering the Djibouti section of the route on February 15, CRCC said work was expected to take 60 months. The contractor will arrange Chinese financial support for the project.
  14. Yewondwossen, Muluken (27 May 2013). "Ethiopia, Djibouti secure $3 bln loan for railway project". Capital Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) and the Djibouti government have secured nearly three billion dollars loan from the Chinese Export Import (EXIM) Bank for the construction of the railway project that stretches from Addis Ababa to Djibouti.
  15. 1 2
  16. "Ethiopia-Djibouti railway sets new model for China-Africa cooperation". Xinhua. October 5, 2016.
  17. "China's CCECC completes track laying of Ethiopia- Djibouti railway". Xinhua. June 13, 2015. Archived from the original on June 14, 2015.
  18. "Ethiopia – Djibouti railway carries first freight". Railway Gazette. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  19. Harper, Mary (23 November 2015). "Can Ethiopia's railway bring peace to Somalia?". BBC World Service News,. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  20. Jeffrey, James (August 15, 2016). "Ethiopian Food Aid Jammed Up in Djibouti Port". Inter Press Service.
  21. "Ethiopia – Djibouti railway inaugurated". Railway Gazette. 5 October 2016.
  22. "From builder to teacher -- China brings railway expertise to Africa". Xinhua. 4 October 2016.
  24. 1 2 3 "Project Description: Addis Ababa – Djibouti Railway" (PDF).
  26. 1 2 "Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Line to Start Early 2016". DP World Doraleh. Capital. October 4, 2015.
  27. Molinari, Michele (June 3, 2015). "Ethiopia turns big plans into reality". International Railway Journal. Archived from the original on June 24, 2015.
  28. "CNR Dalian locomotives exported to Ethiopia". Railway Gazette. 22 March 2014.
  29. "METEC begins assembling railway carriages". Ethiopian News Agency. 16 February 2016.
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