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Chinese-built Ethiopian light rail system has trial run

Updated: Feb 3,2015 4:06 PM

Ethiopia’s first urban light rail system began trial operations in the capital Addis Ababa, on Feb 1.

When Premier Li Keqiang visited the African country in May he took part in a ceremonial tightening, along with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, of one of the track bolts.

Li told his Ethiopian counterpart during that trip that China and Ethiopia have enjoyed and reaped the benefits from a long-established friendship and relations have developed smoothly. He expressed his hope that cooperation in various fields between the countries would deepen.

Premier Li Keqiang with the construction team.

Hailemariam, accompanied by 1,200 officials, students and people from all walks of life in Ethiopia, was on board for the trial run.

Alighting from the train they expressed their gratitude in Mandarin to the Chinese engineers who designed and built the railway, saying “nihao, nihao,” which means “you are good”.

Addis Ababa is located in the central highlands of Ethiopia, often referred to as the “roof of Africa”, and is the highest city on the continent at an altitude of 2,400 meters. And the light railway project is symbolically a “highland” for China’s projects in Africa as it highlights Chinese expertise and technology to the global market, the Premier said at the project’s construction site in May 2014.

The project is the first modern urban light railway system in Africa, and also the first urban rail transport project in Africa contracted to Chinese enterprises and is an excellent example of Chinese manufacturing and technology establishing itself on the world stage.

It is also the first time a Chinese mainland enterprise has sold both technology, track operation services and project management overseas.

The Premier said Chinese enterprises should share their experience and their established rail technology with African partners, train local workers and offer greater employment opportunities to local communities.

The project, Li said, has given a large number of local workers the technique and skills required for rail construction and operation.

The project in Addis Ababa created jobs for 13,000 local workers during construction and saw more than 250 local technicians enter Chinese universities and relevant institutions for professional training.

According to the contracts signed by both countries, Chinese enterprises will train a local team of technicians to operate light rail transportation for Ethiopia.

Hailemariam, hailed the project’s contribution to technology and labor skills in his country during the trial run.

The project has interested other African countries and government representatives from more than 20 visited the project and expressed a willingness to build something similar.