Egypt's transport minister explains reasons behind train accidents before parliament

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Mon, 26 Apr 2021 - 01:46 GMT

Minister of Transportation kamel al-Wazir delivering a speech before the House of Representatives on April 26, 2021. Press Photo

Minister of Transportation kamel al-Wazir delivering a speech before the House of Representatives on April 26, 2021. Press Photo

CAIRO – 26 April 2021: Minister of Transportation kamel al-Wazir delivered a speech Monday before the House of Representatives to explain the reasons behind train accidents in the country after three of them had occurred in less than a month.

 

The minister noted that Egyptian railways like other facilities affiliated to the ministry have been affected badly by negligence and abandonment for long highlighting that the deterioration took its toll on mobile units, infrastructure, and human resources. That came to the detriment of competence, quality, security, and safety.

 

Wazir elaborated that 50 percent of the engines had gone out of service, which had caused the suspension of rail freight transportation. He added that the ministry could not purchase spare parts, and that 50 percent of the 3,000 passenger railcars had been in service for over 40 years.

 

The Egyptian Railway Authority (ERA) has been indebted to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the National Investment Bank, and the General Authority for Petroleum with LE88 billion. In addition, thousands of tons of junk have been scattered in yards and along the railroads, and would be sometimes offered in fake auctions to be sold in prices that are less than the market value. Furthermore, human elements have been in need of technical, psychological and behavioral rehabilitation. Also, a number of workers and technicians adopt extremist and anarchist ideologies. "Those do not wish any good for the railways or safety, security, and development for Egypt," the minister said.  

 

The minister presented later the projects implemented by the ministry between 2014 and 2024. The ministry finished 1,456 projects worth LE371.1 billion out of 2,173 projects worth LE1.6 trillion. As for projects that are still under progress, there are 610 of those and their cost is LE633.2 billion. Starting July 1, 107 projects will be launched at LE617.7 billion.

 

The projects are affiliated to 10 authorities operating in six main sectors that are roads, railways, tunnels, seaports, urban ports and logistics, and inland transportation.

 

Speaking of the railway sector, the minister stated that 257 projects worth LE225 billion are planned. Of those, 177 have been accomplished at LE45 billion, while 53 others worth LE48 billion are still underway. The implementation of 27 projects whose cost is LE132 billion will begin on July 1.

 

Wazir said that LE53 billion were allocated to the purchase of new train engines, and the rehabilitation of 400 out of the 800 existing ones. The 400 train engines were only sufficient to operate 750 trips daily transporting a total of 700,000 passengers.

 

The ministry signed a contract worth $602 million with General Electric to acquire 110 new train engines and rehabilitate 81 others. The company would also supply spare parts and carry out maintenance for 15 years. The 110 new train engines have been supplied and 21 existing ones have been rehabilitated.

 

Another contract was signed with ProgressRail for it to supply 50 train engines, upgrade 50 existing ones, and rehabilitate 41 others. A maintenance contract worth $466.1 million was signed with the same company to maintain 141 engines over 15 years. The company has supplied 16 train engines, and 134 tractor engines, and rehabilitated 30 others. The ministry will also invite tenders soon to acquire 100 train engines with a fund worth €290 million offered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

 

With regard to passenger railcars, only 2,200 out of 3,200 were functional. The latest batch of railcars, including sleeping trains, purchased by Egypt was delivered in 1982. That is why a contract worth €1 billion was signed with Transmashholding to supply 1,300 railcars. Those include 500 dynamic-ventilation third-class units, 500 air-conditioned third-class units, 180 air-conditioned second-class units, 90 air-conditioned first-class units, and 30 air-conditioned cabooses. Until present, 331 of those have been delivered.

 

Another contract worth €157 million was signed with Talgo to supply six trains along with engines and carry out maintenance for seven years.

 

As for rail freight transportation, 4,500 out of 8,700 cargo railcars were functional, however, there were not enough engines to operate them. Those would carry 4.5 million tons per annum, and that is just one percent of cargo circulated in Egypt.

 

The ministry has set a target to introduce trains that would carry 25 million tons per annum contributing by five percent in cargo transportation in Egypt. That is why a contract was signed with Semaf to acquire 140 well cars. Of those, 131 have been delivered. Other contracts with the same company included the purchase of 75 hopper cars, and 1,000 freight railcars of various types. The breakdown is 300 railcar dumpers, 375 well cars, 150 tank cars, 125 boxcars, and 50 autoracks.

 

One hundred engines have been allocated to operate freight trains. Of those, 81 are General Electric ones.

 

The ministry has developed 500 kilometers of railroads out of 1,418 planned kilometers, and 591 keys out of 2,053 at a cost of LE3.2 billion kilometers out of a budget worth LE14.2 billion. The development of 124 kilometers of railroads and 847 keys is underway at LE3.2 billion. The development of 818 kilometers of railroads and 712 keys will begin on July 1 at LE7.2 billion.

 

The ministry has also purchased devices that carry out screening for defects and maintenance for railroads. In addition, 16 projects are being implemented to develop signaling systems in Egypt with a budget worth LE46.8 billion. As for stations, 177 out of 180 got upgraded at LE1.7 billion and work is still underway in the remaining three.

 

The minister stated he had submitted a request to the president to hire 750 engineers to work in maintenance, control systems, and signaling as well as train drivers.

 

In the end, the minister urged the concerned agencies to fire and/or transfer to non-sensitive governmental bodies 162 elements who work in the railways sector and whose allegiance to extremist and anarchist movements has been proven.

 

Wazir also urged removing unlicensed markets surrounding certain parts of the railroads, and eliminating the phenomena of pedestrian vendors who go on board of trains, citizens who board trains without purchasing tickets, others who lie on their back on top of moving trains, throwing rocks at trains, and creating unlicensed crossings over railroads.    

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