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Africa's First Electrified Railway Embraces Full Chinese Standards
Source:CGTN Date:2019年05月07日

Ethiopia and Djibouti launched Africa's first modern electrified railway system connecting their respective capitals on Wednesday. It also marked the first time that the complete spectrum of an overseas railway industry chain was fully backed by Chinese standards.

The construction of the 752.7-km Ethiopia-Djibouti railway adhered to China's level-two electrified railway standards. It has a designed speed of 120 km/hr and a total 4 billion US dollars was invested in the project.

Despite many African countries trying to follow the different standards of Western countries, they were not in a position to form an integrated African railway network.

In January 2004, various African countries proposed an integrated railway network for the continent. With support from regional organizations, like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community, construction projects at transnational and intra-regional levels have been put on the agenda.

Before official planning was set for the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway project, the Ethiopian government, following repeated negotiations with Chinese firms, found that Chinese railway standards are not only on par with their Western counterparts, but also fit better within its national conditions. The government eventually agreed to build the railway following Chinese technology standards.

In the early stage of the railway's construction, however, cases of confusion did pop up on the Ethiopian side with regards to understanding and implementing Chinese standards.

"When construction just began, someone on the Ethiopian side made a claim that some reinforcing steel bars inside a pier were substandard, simply by looking at them," said Wu Xiaoling, a project manager of the China Railway Group (CREC). "But they dropped their unfounded suspicion of Chinese standards and quality after we had presented to them with unquestionable proof."

As construction neared completion, bidding for operation and management right was opened in August 2015. A consortium of the two Chinese contractors, CREC and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), beat their Western rivals to win the bid.


At the end of July this year, the Chinese side was officially awarded the right to operate and manage the railway for six years when it begins service. At that point, a milestone was established in the Chinese railway industry as its technology standards were fully embraced by a foreign market across a complete railway industry chain.

Allen Lee, General Manager of CCECC Ethiopia Construction PLC, recalled that local governments and other foreign rail firms, more often than not, took over operation and management right after Chinese companies had finished the construction of railway projects in Africa.

"Whenever a problem emerged in operation or maintenance, the Chinese contractors would be made a scapegoat for so-called 'quality issues', and this in turn would discourage African governments from constructing their own railways," Lee said. "Such an unfortunate scenario will be avoided in the case of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway."

The early completion of the Ethiopia-Djibout railway and its top-grade quality have boosted the confidence of the Ethiopian and Djibouti governments to develop the railway industry further and set a positive example for neighboring countries.

"The technology standards, engineering quality, and the speed at which the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway was constructed will provide valuable references for other African countries in their own railway endeavors," said Lee.








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