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Egypt to upgrade national railways
afrol News, 27 September - The Egyptian government has approved plans to upgrade the national railway network, approving immediate investments of US$ 860 million. Plans include upgrading old lines and constructing three new lines, including a connection to the popular tourist resort Hurghada. There were however no plans regarding international connections to Libya or Sudan, as Cairo earlier had pledged.
"President Hosni Mubarak has reaffirmed the government's full commitment to upgrading the railway system as soon as possible," Egypt's presidential spokesman said yesterday. The Cairo government already has approved US$ 860 million to be allocated immediately to develop the rail infrastructure, plus another US$ 600 million in loans to the sector later this year.
While the government was aiming to improve the transport system as a whole, "it seeks to develop its vital railway system nationwide, making it as secure and safe as possible," spokesman Suleiman Awwad quoted President Mubarak as telling a cabinet meeting. The meeting "reviewed a comprehensive plan for improving the railway sector in terms of financial administration and management, purchasing modern equipment, improving the signalling and manpower development," added Mr Awwad.
"The railway sector sustains losses exceeding LE 1.6 billion each year, due to the small revenue it receives which are not enough to buy the necessary spare parts or improves its facilities," Mr Awwad explained, adding that the Ministry has only 701 locomotives, 400 of which are operational, while the rest are being overhauled. "Meanwhile, the government has decided to purchase 67 new locomotives and maintain the old ones," he told the press, adding that the Ministry needs LE 8.5 billion to upgrade this sector.
According to the Minister, the money will be spent on "level crossings, stations and locomotives, as well as second- and third-class wagons, and on more staff training." Of the LE8.5 billion, LE 5 billion (US$ 871 million) would come from revenue generated by the award in July of a third mobile telephone licence, costing US$ 2.9 billion. The balance was to be raised through borrowing.
Promising that commuters will notice a big improvement in the train sector in six months' time, Transport Minister Mohamed Mansour said that he would visit a number of countries soon to conclude contracts for buying the new engines and spare parts.
The meeting further discussed the building three new railway lines, Mr Awwad said. The first line was to connect the Red Sea tourist resort Hurghada with the line from Safaga to Luxor at River Nile, he explained. The route is much frequented by international tourists, now going by bus or taxi. The second line would be built between El-Sadat City and Cairo in northern Egypt, while the third line would connect Mersa Allam to Aswan in southern Egypt. No timetable was given.
The government spokesman failed to comment on possible international connections for Egypt's railway network, which the Cairo government has pledged to contribute to in the African Union (AU) and the Community of Sahelian-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). Non-financed plans exist to connect Egypt's and Sudan's networks to create a trans-Saharan connection.
But also more advanced regional plans exist to connect the entire North African region by a railway passing through all of Libya, connecting Egypt's railways with those of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Reportedly, funding of this line recently has reached an advanced stage in Libya, with some constructing preparations already being finished. Egypt however has now immediate plans to improve its railway connections towards the Libyan border.
By staff writer
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