Locals to take the driver seat on Ethiopia-Djibouti railway

ADDIS ABABA, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) — The Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company (EDR) on Wednesday disclosed its plan to transfer captaincy to local experts by the end of next year as part of the ongoing comprehensive knowledge transfer initiative.

Tilahun Sarka, EDR Director-General, told Xinhua on Wednesday that young engineers from Ethiopia and Djibouti are destined to fully manage the 752 km-long transnational railway that connects landlocked Ethiopia to its neighboring Red Sea nation of Djibouti.

According to Sarka, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway is presently managed by a consortium of Chinese companies for a period of six years, due to the shortage of electrified railway operation and management experience in the two countries.

The railway was jointly built by two Chinese companies, namely the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

Sarka, noting that experts drawn from the two Chinese companies are currently undertaking all the maintenance, rail captaincy and control operations, said that efforts are smoothly progressing so as to transfer rail captaincy to local engineers.

The director revealed that some 65 young train drivers from Ethiopia and Djibouti will soon travel to China to undertake theoretical and technical trainings as part of joint efforts with the consortium of Chinese companies.

“Our plan is to fully take over rail captaincy by local captains next year, then maintenance operations and finally control unity activities.” Sarka said.

The railway presently provides different kinds of freight services including the transportation of perishable goods, vehicles, cereals and fertilizers from the Djibouti port all the way to Addis Ababa.

Young Ethiopian professionals, who are currently taking part in the knowledge transfer program with their Chinese counterparts, also expressed their aspiration to become the pioneer rail transport masters in the two East African nations.

Saliha Muhammed, who is a mechanical engineering graduate, is one of the aspiring Ethiopians that are currently participating in the program alongside Chinese professionals.

“I have received a comprehensive training that lasted for 45 days. During the training, Chinese experts taught us every single thing,” Saliha said.

“It’s a good thing that after 2 years we will be the first Ethiopians to take this opportunity, because it’s a new chance,” she added.

Saliha also praised Chinese professionals for their support in theoretical training and practical demonstrations, saying that “we are very grateful for the knowledge transfer.”

Zhang Huanan, Human Resource Department Head at EDR, told reporters recently that 600 local professionals were receiving training in every sector related to the normal functioning of the rail system.

Zhang, who affirmed the target to entirely manage the railway operations by locals within six years, said the transition to locals cannot be done overnight as the railway and its system are state-of-the-art technologies that require effective technical and practical knowledge.

According to Zhang, the knowledge transfer procedures vary and will last from a minimum of one year to a maximum of 6 years depending on the nature of each task.

Li Chengwei is one of the Chinese experts currently mentoring locals on the various forms of services that are provided in the train.

“I am happy that local professionals are taking their lessons very fast,” said Li, as he looks certain to hand over his post as a station attendant to locals within the coming two years.

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