The Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) standard gauge network which operates on an expanse of 34 kilometers in two directions has suffered a major setback caused by inferior signaling and communication cables, apparently manufactured by the Metal Engineering Corporation (MetEC), The Reporter has learnt.
And hence, the light rail system is now about to replace at least 15 kilometer of the electric cables with new ones.
Bizuwork Demisse, CEO with the Addis Ababa Electric Utility, told The Reporter that, the LRT project had procured the signaling and communications cables from MetEC and from the Turkish cable maker, BMET three years ago. Accordingly, BMET cables were installed in two directions from Torhayloch station to the National Stadium and from Minlik II square to Gumruk-Laghar Station, which saw only one disruption in the past three years.
Meanwhile, cables procured from MetEC stretching from Kaliti area to Gumruk-Laghar and from Ayat to Megenagna have sustained serious disruptions, so far.
“We came out to say the disruptions have been caused by defective cables. We didn’t have such daunting issues from BMET cables,” the CEO noted.
Following the setbacks, currently a procurement of at least 15 kms of cable is under a bidding process and is likely that BMET will be considered for its quality products, Bizuwork asserted. “We are in a national crisis from defective products and stranded passengers have been facing series of chaos during commutes. At times, trams could be seen stranded in the middle of railways.
To re-do such predicaments, a minimum of 15 million birr worth of new cables will be purchased to replace the existing ones. However, EEU has been feeling the burn as changes in the designs of the LRT brought about significant financial burdens, Bizuwork claimed. “Maintenance costs, spare parts and operational activities of electric systems are still left for the utility company while the properties are owned by the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC),” the CEO said.
According to Bizuwork, the worst is yet to come while stocked spare parts run out. “It will be a crisis when that happens.” Alternative and reserve power feeding systems have been installed yet the trains still face interruptions and the latest was witnessed last week due to a failure in the communication system.
The overall investment required for the reinstallations will go up to 70 million birr.
The reinstallation work will need at least four months of maneuvering to get the trams going that sought a USD 475 million investment loan from China. Launched some three years ago and commended as a modern LRT in Africa, the Addis light rail system currently runs only 20 of its vehicles, out of the initial 41.