Trial runs of the new railway linking the capital of Ethiopia to ports in neighbouring Djibouti are due to start next month, Ethiopian officials said on Saturday.
The 656-km line, financed mostly by China and built by two Chinese companies, is expected to boost trade by cutting the journey to the coast from three days to just 10-12 hours.
Replacing an old colonial-era railway built by the French, the new standard gauge rail link will carry freight and people at speeds of up to 120km/h between the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, and Djibouti on the Red Sea.
Officials told reporters on 24 September that 99% of work has been completed on schedule.
The contractors are China Railway Group (CREC) and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
China’s Exim Bank, and other state lenders, have supplied 70% of the reported $3.47bn cost through loans, with the remainder provided by the Ethiopian government, according to reports.
Ethiopia is investing billions of dollars on new transport infrastructure to boost economic and social development.
Since the landlocked country cut ties with Eritrea following the 1998-2000 border war, Ethiopia has relies on ports in Djibouti to for around 90% its international trading.
Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, aims to be classed as a middle income country by 2025.
Image: A map of the new Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway (Skilla1st/Wikimedia Commons)