Ethiopia charting a path to a low carbon future with light rail
By Eric Mutei
At the end of a long day at work, the only thing you want to do is get home quickly. You’re exhausted from dealing with your boss, terrible colleagues or crazy clients. But traveling home is just another drawn out nightmare to endure, thanks to the woes of the transport sector. The only reliable and affordable means of transportation for a common city dweller in Addis Ababa is the state operated city buses. Apart from the long stretchy queues, these buses are overcrowded and groaning heavily under the weight of the city residents. Not to mention the endless traffic jams. This is the daily transit scenario in the streets of Addis Ababa.
The scene above was the common case of daily transit until the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) project launched in December 2011. The rail is a first in clean initiative in the horn of Africa to enhance public mobility. The light railway of Ethiopia is the first urban metro light rail scheme to be built in a sub-Saharan country outside of South Africa.
The Ethiopian Railways Corp. (ERC) began construction of the double track electrified light rail transit project in 2012. It stretches 23 kilometers covering the better part of the city, and is a welcome relief for the city residents. The light railway consists of two lines running for a total distance of 32km with underground and over ground sections, 39 stations, and two operators that are the Ethiopian Railways Corporation and Shenzhen Metro. The 41 three-section 70% low-floor light rail vehicles are designed to run in pairs at up to 70 km/h. All have tinted windows and rubber components specified to resist premature aging from the effects of strong sunlight at altitudes of 2400 m.
ERC intends to register the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit project as a Clean Development Mechanism project. The rail project is one of the pillars of a green growth strategy in the transport chapter of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE), to consolidate greenhouse gas emissions of the country at 2010 levels. The vision of this rail project was to see a modern railway infrastructure and service by an efficient railway company that supports Ethiopia’s endeavor in building a globally competitive economy that uses electricity and connects the country’s development centers and links with ports of neighboring countries.
The Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy (PDF) lays down a plan for Ethiopia to develop a carbon neutral, green economy by 2025. According to the CRGE strategy report, under the BAU scenario, emissions from the transport sector will increase from 5 Mt CO2e in 2010 to 41 Mt CO2e in 2030. The development and implementation of a National Railway Network and the Light Rail Transit and supported projects (Transit Oriented Development) will result in significant GHG emission reductions of 9 Mt CO2e/year by 2030.
Building electrified railways lays the base for low carbon transport in Ethiopia and will assure clean transport tomorrow. Railroads can contribute towards severing Ethiopia’s economic growth from diesel fuelled trucks. Availability of reliable and clean transport is a precondition for Ethiopia’s development. Trains can make use of a domestic energy source, hydropower, and help fuel the economy in a green way. The clean character of the fuel without emission of greenhouse gasses and the durable economic structure without dependency on imported fuels is sustainable.
Years ago the air was cleaner, but with the drastic growth in population, more than 4 million, the number of 20 year or older vehicles and developmental projects, the air is polluted above the traffic gridlock. The light rail train as cleaner public transist gives a reprieve to the public, combined with the hope for more electric cars, it is expected to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector to less than 9 tonnes by 2030. It is an environmentally friendly venture aimed at combating the ever growing pollution in the city. It is not only convenient, providing transport for over 15,000 people per one direction and 60,000 in all four directions, but affordable for the residents. It is a milestone in helping Ethiopia sustain its growing economy, as Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The Light Rail Train has brought glimmers of hope to the common man. At the very least, one can get home easily at the end of the day without the crazy hassle of looking for and struggling in transit. The commuting city residents can breathe easier using clean transit as they take part in building their nation.
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