CAIRO: Egypt has dedicated LE 8.5 billion to refurbishing the railway network, reports national newspapers. The restoration plan, according to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, has been modified so that the railway lines would be “rescued in two years, instead of five.
The decision comes three days after a train crash killed at least 58 people and wounded more than 140 near the city of Qalyoub, 20 km from Cairo. The event provoked a wave of fury. Opposition columnists deemed the train disaster a result of “government corruption. Some felt the decision to revamp the network was merely a measure to curb anger.
The event evoked images of an earlier tragedy in Upper Egypt, less than four years ago, when a fire on a train killed over 300 people in the wake of an Islamic holiday break. At the time, authorities blamed poor safety conditions for the blaze.
According to Al-Ahram newspaper, the government has approved Minister of Transport Mohammed Lutfi Mansour’s suggestion of dedicating LE 5 billion of the proceedings gained from Egypt’s new cell phone operator to the restoration of the rail network. The remaining LE 3.5 billion will be borrowed, according to the newspaper.
The government is still hushed concerning possible causes. The general prosecutor was quoted by Al-Ahram as saying that the accounts of the train driver and many of the railway station workers were contradictory, without disclosing any further details. Although disappointing, it is the first insight into the ongoing investigation. Preliminary results of the investigation into the causes of the accident are expected to be revealed within the next 48 hours, as of Thursday, according to the national Al-Akhbar.
Columnist Mohammad Barakat, of Al-Akhbar newspaper, is one who has deemed “corruption, laziness, negligence, haphazardness and laxness the main causes behind the train tragedy. Barakat kicked off his Thursday analysis by saying that “it is easy to demand that engineer Mohammed Lutfi Mansour resign, or ask state chief Ahmed Nazif to dismiss him . All this is easy . But I believe the matter is much deeper than this.
Barakat said that the event has two dimensions: backwardness and a complicated state of carelessness that has “become the norm. It would be “a waste of time that after any tragedy or catastrophe, we look for a scapegoat to lay the responsibility on so that we may relax for sometime or curb people’s anger and [strong] emotions, or [even] numb their pain [until] the days go by and we find ourselves facing another tragedy.
Al-Watani Al-Youm, the newly launched mouthpiece for the ruling National Democratic Party, has decided to publish an earlier interview with Mansour, where the minister was quoted outlining serious problems tarnishing Egypt’s transportation services.
“I have already announced that this sector is suffering from chronic problems, Mansour was quoted as saying. “There exists no across-the-board strategy for reform . The human resources are not adequate. Reforming people [labor], caring for them and giving them access to financial resources that qualify them to work, achieve and succeed [is a key to this reform strategy].
When asked whether or not he had pinpointed the exact breakdowns, Mansour said that “since day one, [we] started reviewing and evaluating the method of performance of all transportation sectors . [We] put and reformulated suitable plans to solve all these problems.
Al-Masry Al-Youm carried a picture of Mansour, his distress evident and with what seems to be a streak of tears on his face. The headline read, “A fierce trying of government in the People’s Assembly. According to the independent daily, some upper-house members have insisted on no less than a resignation. The tragedy has united parliament members against the government, according to the newspaper.
Mansour was also quoted as telling the assembly during their emergency meeting that he will immediately “resign if he fails to reform [the network]. The minister also promised that an independent committee would be formed to oversee and review the investigation into the incident, adding that he refuses to lay the entire blame on the “human element.