Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced the cancellation of a plan to construct the railway in the northwest Ethiopia.
The Premier made the controversial statement in a town hall meeting in Adwa town last Monday.
PM Hailemariam said: “A railway is expensive. It costs about 4 million dollars per kilometer in a plain ground. In the mountainous northern Ethiopia, it costs about 7-8 million dollars per kilometer”. It wasn’t clear how those figures were calculated.
Therefore, Hailemariam said he is uncertain when a railway route might reach the area. Yet, he advised the audience to focus on development, “as your city grows, the train gets closer”. At one point, he suggested it might not happen ”in our lifetime”.
Hailemariam’s statement, however, contradicts the official line of the government.
The 10-years plan unveiled by the government unveiled in 2010 aimed to build 4,780 km National Railway Network.
According to that plan, the first phase consisted the construction of about 1,800 km railway line in four routes: Addis Ababa to Djibouti, Addis Ababa to the southwestern Bedele, Awash (near Addis Ababa) to Hara Gebeya(Woldya) to the northern city Mekelle, and Hara Gebeya to Assayta to Djibouti.
The second phase was to connect Jimma to Dima (South Sudan border), Ijaji to Nekemet to Assosa to Kimuruk, Mekele to Shire, Fenote selam to Bahir dar to Wereta to Woldia, Wereta to Azazo to Metema and Adama to Indeto to Gassera to Ginir.
However, by 2015, when the first phase was supposed to be completed, the Ethiopian Railway Corporation could only report the near-completion status of the Addis Ababa – Djibouti route, while construction contracts for the Awash – Hara Gebeya(Woldya) – Mekelle and the Hara Gebeya – Assayta railway lines were awarded.
The causes of the under-performance were said to be low institutional capacity and lack of financial sources.
The government quietly downsized its ambitions to 1545 kilometers in the plan for 2016-2020 period. The plan document stated the target for the current period would be “the completion and operationalization of the networks began in the previous plan period and making preparations to launch construction of new railway projects”.