BY MOHAMMED ABU ZAID
- Work underway on developing the main railways using specialized foreign, local firms
CAIRO: Egypt has allocated 225 billion Egyptian pounds ($14.36 billion) to develop its railway network and prevent a repetition of accidents such as the collision of two trains in Upper Egypt on Friday.
Egyptian Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir said that he had held a meeting with officials of the Egyptian National Railways Authority to develop a plan to prevent accidents, indicating that these new funds were allocated for the development of the current railway network.
Al-Wazir explained, in televised statements, that the driver of the train had been at fault, stressing that the prosecution was conducting investigations into the incident.
“We are working to establish a train network at the highest level. We have a problem with the human element on the railways and we are working to secure it at the highest level,” he said.
The Egyptian Public Prosecutor ordered an investigation into the incident, which occurred near the city of Tahta, about 365 km from the capital.
Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Radi confirmed that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had directed officials to take measures to prevent such incidents from happening again.
He said that the president would be careful not to disrupt the development of the railway network as it supported a large number of citizens, transporting around a million passengers a day.
Egypt has one of the largest and oldest railways in the region, and Egyptians have long complained that governments have failed to impose basic safety measures.
At a previous press conference about the Sohag train collision, Al-Wazir said that the trains operated using electronic safety means, which caused trips and delays about 25 percent of the time.
The minister explained that the development work necessary would require the railway to be completely closed until 2022 for the main lines and until 2024 for other lines, adding that this was rejected by all parties as it would disrupt passengers’ daily commute.
He said that there were three main lines with an area of about 2,000 km: Cairo — Aswan, Cairo — Alexandria, and Cairo — Benha Port Said.
“Work is underway to develop signals on the railway lines. We are working on developing the main railways using specialized international and Egyptian companies, and their development will be completed on June 30, 2022, and these lines will be completely safe, without the intervention of the human factor,” the minister said.
The minister added that the second phase of the development project, which will end in 2024, included 260 tractors, 1,000 cargo vehicles and 200 sleeping vehicles, in addition to the development of the remaining 8,000 km of railway lines, which were suburban lines, and the remaining crossings and stations.
An express train will start operating mid-2024 and will contribute to decreasing demand on the existing lines, specifically Upper Egypt lines.(Arab News)