The construction of Addis Abeba's Light Rail Transit system is progressing well, with 60pc of the project completed. There are, however, still a number of concerns regarding how the design will accommodate people and cars hoping to cross the lines. Some complain that the current approach is impacting on both business and day-to-day life in the city, with reports of inconvenience and injury. When fully operational, the rail system will provide transport for an incredible 60,000 people an hour, reports FASIKA TADESSE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
It was in 2011 that the Ethiopian government first set out to transform city transport in Addis Abeba, awarding a 475 million dollar contract to the China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC). This was for the construction of a 31km double-track electrified light rail, as phase one of the total 75km planned for the city. The EXIM Bank of China extended 85pc in loans, while the government of Ethiopia covered the rest.
The project is well underway; nevertheless, the issue of pedestrian and car crossings seems yet to have been dealt with. People either jump over inconvenient barriers or walk a long way to cross over the rails; cars have to drive even longer.
The two-line rail tracks extend 16.99km from east-to-west, stretching from Ayat Village to Tor Hayloch, passing through Haya Hulet, Urael, Meskel Square and Lideta. On the north-to-south route, a 16.7km rail track will pass through Piassa (Menelik Square), Addis Ketema, Awtobus Tera, Sebategna, Tor Hailoch, Meskel Square, Gotera to the Kaliti Training Centre. The two directions will share a common track of about 2.7km.
The railway construction commenced by the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) on January 2012 has now reached 60pc completion, and the implementation of the railway tracks has begun.
The construction of the railway is taking place in three ways: 23km on ground level, 7.33km of bridge construction and 0.9km through underground tunnel construction.
The two lines share five stations. The average distance between two stations on the east-to-west route is 0.8km and on the north-to-south route 0.78km. Among the 39 stations, three of them are found in caves, nine of them on bridges and 27 on the ground.
“When the ERC brought the design of the railway, it had no pedestrian crossings and vehicle turn routes,” said Fekade Haile (Eng.), head of Addis Abeba City Roads Authority (AACRA). “So, we discussed with them several times and asked them to redesign it by including both pedestrian and vehicle crossings and turning routes.”
However, the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project office says that the solution will be provided by the AACRA.
“Ten overpass bridges will be constructed by the AACRA for the vehicles, according to our deal with the AACRA in April 2012,” said Behailu Sintayehu, the project manager. “The bridges will be located in Lideta, Urael, Mexico, Haya Hulet, Megenagna, Ayat, CMC, Meri CMC, Saris and Meshualkiya.”
The ERC will build eight underground passes, Behailu added.
The ground station will have an entrance on both sides. The bridge stations will allow the same access from both sides, as well as allowing pedestrians to cross over the regular zebra-crossing onto a lift or staircase leading onto the bridge. The lifts are designed to serve people with disabilities.
There are 39 stations across the east-west and north-south tracks, nine of them on bridges and three underground, leaving 27 on ground level, according to the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project office, none of which were visible on the design shown to the AACRA, according to Fekade. The project office says that there will be zebra-crossings at the 27 stations at ground level – allowing pedestrians to cross over the rails.
On the north-to-south route, the main stations and zebra-crossings will be at Kaliti, Abo church, Dama hotel, Saris Gebeya, Nifas Silk, Gotera, Lanchia, Meshualikiya, Stadium, Coca-Cola Mazoria, Lideta and Tor Hailoch.
The zebra-crossings and stations on the east-to-west route will be at Ayat, Meri CMC, CMC, St. Michael church, Civil Service College, Salite Mihret church, Gurde Shola, Megenagna, Lem Hotel, Haya Hulet, Urael, Estifanos, Stadium, La Gare, Mexico Square, Lideta, Abinet, Sebategna, Merkato, Atikilt Tera and Menelik Square.
“The main objective of the commencement of light railway lines is to serve as an access or linkage to other lines of trunk traffic,” said Behailu. “It will help both pedestrians and motorists, who are currently paying heavily due to congestion and lack of alternative roads.”
According to Behailu, because of the undergoing construction of the LRT, most of the sidewalks and vehicle interjection roads are closed, but the roads will be opened as soon as the undergoing construction is finalised.
“The construction of the railway is taking place without the consideration of crossings for pedestrians and vehicles,” said Waqe Wolamo, the owner of CMC Michael Pharmacy, which is found around CMC.
Pedestrians are going to be forced to jump over barriers, Waqe feels. “My neighbour broke her leg jumping the barrier block to cross the road to go to St Michael’s church across from us,” said Messeret Girma, a resident in the CMC area at a place called Police Tabiya.
She is also now paying double to use horse-drawn carriages to transport her market purchases home.
“They said they will not come if we do not pay them double by reasoning that they cannot find enough places to turn their carts,” she added.
“Most of the people who come to the pharmacy are sick people who cannot jump and cross the barrier, so my business is suffering,” said Waqe. “I am also paying extra to refuel my car because I drive until Megenagna to find an intersection point.”
Eskender Tefera is a 38-year businessman in Merkato with a physical disability. Every month he has to come to the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA), which is located next to Global Hotel on Sierra Leone Street for tax-related issues.
“Previously, I could simply cross the road,” he said.
Now that the barriers and track are in place he has to go all the way around to get to the ERCA.
“The city administration should learn from the experience of the ring road,” said Meskele Deffar, a taxi driver. “The ring road has no crossing for pedestrians and vehicles, so the road is experiencing many accidents.”
“Many people prefer using contract taxis to reach their destinations in a short time, but on a one-lane road, not only is the user of that specific lane driving, but so are other drivers who are waiting to get to an interjection to turn to the next lane. This is causing traffic jams and most contract taxi users become angry at us,” Meskele grumbles.
Teshale Gebre, who is an Isuzu driver, shares his frustration. “If I want to turn, I have to go to Stadium and to make the next turn,” he claims, “I have to drive until the Gotera intersection and finally I will find the third intersection road at Kaliti, which is a long distance between the three intersections.”
The Addis Abeba Light Rail Transit will have a total of 41 trains operating on 75 volts of electricity. Each train is 30m long with 64 seats and has a 2.65m width with a capacity to accommodate six to eight people in one square metre of space. In total, the train will be able to carry 286 to 317 passengers at a time and travel at 30km to 40km an hour, although it has a maximum speed of 80km per hour.
The LRT will provide transportation services to 15,000 people an hour in one direction and 60,000 in all four directions in one hour.
As for the payment method, electronic tickets will be applicable. The electronic tickets will be recharging a passenger’s credit for continuous use at the ERC. These tickets will be swiped upon entering the train and when exiting at a stop. The non-digital paper ticket will be available for temporary users.
The project will have two depots at Ayat and Kaliti, which will serve as maintenance service locations for the trains and as pick-up and destination points.
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