Egypt invests in the modernization of its railway infrastructure

egipto-ferrocarril
egipto-ferrocarril

The Egyptian Railway Company is carrying out an investment program, until 2023, which is aimed at modernizing this transport means. in addition to the main initiatives, such as the renewal of rolling stock, rehabilitation of over 2,000 kilometers of tracks and construction of high speed lines.

Egypt is the third most inhabited country in Africa and the Arab world, accounting for 26% of this population. Its economy ranks fourth in the area in terms of GDP, due to its strength and diversification. The railway in this area is considered the backbone of passenger transport, with a volume reaching up to 500 million per year (about 1.4 million per day) due to the high number of residents. This means is also essential in terms of freight, with an average of six million tons per year. The network has a total length of 9,570 kilometers, with 1,466 km of double track, representing a third of the total, and another 3,667 km of single track, with more than 820 stations. Most of the route links the area of the densely populated Nile Delta to Cairo and Alexandria and the main hubs. Most of the lines precisely start from the Ramses station, in the capital of the country or Misr, in Alexandria to Marsa Matruh, Suez Ismailia (Said Port), Mansoura, Damietta and Giza. The tourist routes play an important role and are the protagonists of the links between Cairo, Alexandria, Matrouh, Hurghada, Sham El Sheikh, Arish, Seawa, Luxor and Aswan.

Fully aware of the new challenges and the importance of the railway in the future of the country, the Government has implemented an investment plan to develop a strong, modern and multimodal transport. To this end, together with the items, work is being done to achieve an external financing in order to increase collaboration in this type of initiatives. Ministry of Transport has drawn up a list of national investment proposals in the amount of € 13.500 million dollars (€ 11.400 M) until 2030 aimed at highlighting the megaprojects and opportunities available in all sectors. These include high speed, improvements in national lines, metro networks and connections with other communication means. The modernization has been pursued in Egypt for several years with the support of international institutions. In 2009, the World Bank approved a multiannual funding for the “Egypt National Railways Restructuring Project (ENRRP)”. The objective is to assist the Government in improving the reliability, efficiency and safety of the railways’ services through signaling and track renewal funds, mainly in terms of safety, and for management and operating practices in order to enhance its responsiveness to economic and social needs and to strengthen the financial viability of the entity. The corresponding Minister, Saad Mohamed Elgioshy, has recently ensured that Egypt is a “pro-business” country that offers a stable investment regime, with a new law that is very favorable to international business collaboration and protection, being especially suitable for large infrastructure projects such as those defined for the coming years.

In this future route, the Egyptian National Railway (ENR) company will play a priority role. This company took over the entire network and it is the first to be created in Africa and the second largest in the world of these features. ENR’s vision is to have the largest railway system in Africa and the Middle East and the best passenger service on the continent by 2050. In order to fulfill its objectives, a great deal of work is being done to modernize both infrastructures and rolling stock, as well as of the control systems. In this context, the ENR authorities approved in the fiscal year 2015-2016 a long-term plan, until 2029/2030, endowed with 11,300 million US dollars. The new projects are designed to improve the efficiency and safety of the existing railway network through automation, improved signaling and communications.

 International links: Receptiveness to new markets

The country’s transport authorities are working on expanding the external links, such as the railway link to Libya through a line that will have the same gauge of 1,435 mm. Egypt is also part of the ambitious “Arab Mashreq International Railway” project. This includes an extensive international railway network for the Middle East. It is planned to create the north-south and east-west axes, and 16 different routes that would cover 19,500 kilometers. By July 2016, the agreement to carry out the project had already been ratified by 12 states: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

New rolling stock: Modern trains and locomotives

Together with the support from the World Bank, Egypt has the support of the European Bank (EBRD) for transport modernization plans. In June 2017, this entity approved a financing in the amount of 290 million EUR for the expansion of the fleet and the improvement of the services of the Egyptian railway company, ENR. As part of the renewal program, the EBRD will provide funding for the purchase of up to 100 new diesel locomotives. This will change an old fleet that has an average age of 30 years. This will help to reduce carbon emissions and improve the reliability of the service. In addition, EBRD will provide technical assistance to ENR to develop and implement a comprehensive freight reform program and a marketing plan for the sector.

As regards the passenger trains, improvement plans are also included. Among them, the Semaf Company, with a factory in Cairo, will be in charge of 212 cars equipped with air conditioning. A project that has a budget of 2,086 billion Egyptian pounds (€ 100 M). This company will also build another 145 cars. The renewal of existing rolling stock also has a very prominent role in ENR’s projects. In fact, works are being done on the rehabilitation of 1,350 cars, in addition to the works of the Qader factory which will be in charge of the improvement of another 450 units and the manufacture of 39 sleeping cars and six other club cars. In June 2017, ENR also signed an agreement with GE for the supply of 100 locomotives of the “GE ES30ACi Light Evolution” series for an amount of 575 million EUR, which can be used for both passenger and freight traffic. Alongside the ongoing projects, the expansion of the Cairo metro network, as well as the future construction of the new high-speed sections and the track renewal are expected to provide for future acquisitions of new rolling stock in the country.

Renewal of tracks and signaling systems

The Egyptian railways work on the renovation of 2,000 kilometers of track, belonging to different lines of the country. In terms of infrastructure, it is also necessary to replace the current mechanical signaling system, which represents around 85% of the total, by the new electronic interlocking system (EIS) in several networks. It also includes the “Cairo-Alez-Beni Suief”, “Assyut-Banha”, “Said-Assyut Port” and “Nagah Hammadi / Luxor” branches for a budget of 607 million EUR. In addition, the current ACS (ZUB) automatic control systems will be replaced by the ETCS-Level 1 control systems. 886 level crossings will be also enabled and the mechanical interlocking system will be replaced by the new electronic interlocking system (EIS) on the Tanta-El Mansura-Damietta lines.

 Freights: A more competitive network

As regards the freight transport, various improvements are required throughout the network. On the one hand, the transport authorities anticipate an investment of 82 million EUR, while looking for partners and financing for a line going from Mansoura to Damietta, which would also serve for passengers. Another network to be built is the one that will link the country’s largest phosphate mine in Abu Tartur to the Safaga Port. The cost of this project is in the amount of 85 million EUR. There is an effort to strengthen this type of communications, especially at distances of between 200 and 300 kilometers.

High speed arrives in Egypt

High speed is one of the most important aspects in Egypt’s plans. This was recently explained by the Minister of Transport, Hesham Arafat, who anticipated that they are planning to invest up to 14,400 million EUR in new railway projects. Most of these funds will go to three lines of these features going from Luxor and Alexandria to Cairo and from Luxor to Hurghada. The investment for these three routes is estimated to an amount of 13,000 million EUR. The main objective is to promote tourism that is expected to reach more than 30 million visitors by 2025. The largest of these three will be the Cairo-Luxor link for which around 6,000 million EUR should be invested. This is a line of 700 kilometers requiring up to five years of work. It is estimated to register about 3.4 million passengers per year. Regarding its financing, alternatives such as the BOT (build, operate, transfer) model are discussed among others. The section going from Luxor to Hurghada is expected to have a length of 300 kilometers and a transport volume of 1.5 million passengers. A budget of 4,000 million EUR is estimated for this link. In turn, the line going from Alexandria to Cairo, with an estimated cost of 3,000 million EUR, will have 210 kilometers and a capacity of 2.3 million passengers per year. In this case, works will be carried out in three years. As regards the development of these new lines, it is worthy to mention the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the governments of Egypt and Spain, signed in March 2015. This agreement was promoted to cooperate in the study of future lines (Cairo / Luxor) and (Luxor / Hurghada).