Cairo, 6 Rabiul Awwal 1434/ 18 January 2013 (MINA) – Egypt’s Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Hatem Abdellatif announced Thursday that the government is embarking on an emergency plan to overhaul the railway system after a series of recent tragic incidents in the public transport sector that claimed the lives of scores of Egyptians.
Speaking to the Transport and Telecommunication Committee of Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament, Abdellatif said the plan focuses on overhauling railway crossing system and purchase train carriages.
The Ministry has ordered 221 new train carriages and plans to purchase new 336 ones. Moreover, the government has signed contracts for the automation of the railway crossing system, he said.
Abdellatif added that his ministry also plans to upgrade and train maintenance workshops and restructure the state-owned railway system companies, according to Kuwait news agency (KUNA) report received by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Friday.
He admitted that the railway system is suffering enormous and complicated problems mainly due to lack of the decades of neglect and lack of resources.
The trains are in very poor condition, the repair and overhaul system lacks professional work and staff are in desperate need for training, he stated.
He uncovered that nearly 80-85 percent of the still operating 3300 train carriages are dilapidated and have to be replaced with new ones.
A study conducted on 2002 put the number of victims of railway accidents at 100-120 a year on average, he said, noting the majority of which were blamed on the irresponsible behavior of people. Abdellatif remarks came after a series of deadly train accidents, including two in the past two days.
On Wednesday, four people lost their lives when a train crashed a taxi in Giza Governorate.
On Tuesday, a train carrying military and police conscripts derailed southwest of Cairo, killing 19 people and wounding 118. The train was taking young recruits from south Egypt to a military camp in Cairo when two carriages went off the rails shortly after midnight in the Giza neighbourhood of Badrasheen.
In November, nearly 50 school children were killed when a train smashed into their bus in central Egypt after a railway signal operator fell asleep, prompting protests and resignations.
The railway network’s poor safety record stems largely from lack of maintenance and poor management. In Egypt’s deadliest railway tragedy, the bodies of more than 360 passengers were recovered from a train after a fire in 2002.
Egyptians have long complained that the government has failed to deal with the country’s transport problems, with roads as poorly maintained as railway lines. (T/R-019/R-006)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)