By Rehab Saber
Egypt’s plan for building its first high-speed passenger rail project, which had been shelved for years has been made a top priority for the interim government, according to Minister of Transport Ibrahim El-Demeiry.
El-Demeiry served in the cabinet of former prime minister HazemEl-Beblawi and maintained his post during the cabinet reshuffle in February.
The government is working on a plan for carrying out the project, which is expected to be offered for bidders over the coming days to connect five provinces, from Egypt’s north coast to the country’s far south, the minister said
Attracting investments and boosting tourism are major aims of the high-speed rail, which will connect five provinces, the northern coastal city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean, Giza, Assiut, Luxor and Aswan in the south, with a speed of 350 km/h.
El-Demeirysaid the government is considering selling shares to the public to help finance the rail project extending up the Nile valley, pointing out that many Egyptian banks, businessmen and the army are eager to offer financing to the project that will incur “huge revenues”.
The ministry has almost completed the technical and economic studies for the rail, El-Demeirysaid, as well as setting the legal framework to establish a company affiliated to the National Railway Authority (NRA) to be entrusted with carrying out the project and operating it.
According to initial studies, the proposed high-speed rail line will be set up over an upper path, a bridge, that will be well isolated on both sides to guarantee highest safety. Five stations will be built in the five provinces where the train will stop. An electrified line will be fixed below the line.
Total costs of the rail that is expected to be used by 10million people will hit EGP 70bn ($10 billion).
The first stage of the line, 200 km long and covering the distance from Alexandria to Giza, is due to be completed in three years’ time. Work will start on this section once the executive company is set up in cooperation with the Armed Forces Engineering Department.
The second and third parts –Giza-Assiut and Assiut- Luxor –are400 kilo metres each.
The ministry plans to have a further line to be built in the future to the resort towns on the Red Sea, east of the country.
In 2009, the Egyptian government entrusted an Italian firm with preparing the technical study for the high-speed railway. The study defined the route that the line would take, and the number of potential passengers as well as the cost of the project
The study, based on satellite maps, offered four alternatives for the line on satellite maps.
On the technical specifications of the line, the study then said that the highest speed would hit 300 km/h and that the train would cover the journey in 50 minutes.