Minister of Transportation Hesham Arafat during his meeting with parliamentarians - File Photo
CAIRO - 14 August 2017: Minister of Transportation and Communication, Hesham Arafat, said manually operated systems are the main cause of the Cairo-Alexandria train collision, during his meeting with members of the Transportation Committee in parliament on Monday.
The minister was requested by the parliamentarians for questioning at parliament headquarters, following the Alexandria train collision, which took place on Friday, leaving 41 dead and over 100 injured.
The minister discussed during the meeting required plans to develop railways systems in Egypt, highlighting major issues in the current systems, and reasons of delayed developments. However, he said that he will not speak about the accident as it is still under investigations.
Several parliamentarians attribute responsibility of railway issues to former presidents.
Regarding the current system, the minister said that if the railway station remained working under manually-operated systems, such accidents will be repeated, suggesting usage of new technology to develop the system and prevent these accidents in the future.
He said that ministry requested LE 11 billion ($0.6 billion) for comprehensive development of the system, but the ministry was only able to receive approval for around LE 3 billion ($0.16 billion). The potential development plans will be divided into engineering projects and training programs.
Arafat said that he explained to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi the infrastructural problems of the Railways Authority, in which the president expressed great keenness regarding the developing plan for foreign companies to run railway workshops.
In recent developments, Arafat noted that around 185 railway crossings were upgraded over recent years, and 56 within the past five months. The minister noted that there is currently development projects under construction at a cost of more than $6 billion ($0.32 billion) and will continue for three years.
Regarding development priorities, he said that safety comes first before trip timing and passenger demands. He also said that they are aiming at amending the National Railway Stations’ law.
The development of infrastructure represented in railway bars, railroad crossroad and semaphores is much more important than the development of railway stations, the minister asserted, explaining that there are workshops improving knowledge of old equipment and tools, adding that there are also old rails that date back to the 40s.