Mansour: passengers to feel improvements in 24 months
CAIRO: Minister of Transportation Mohamed Mansour announced his office is preparing to order 40 more General Electric (GE) locomotives within March to help modernize the country s ailing railroad system.
Mansour said the ministry has decided against ordering from two Chinese manufacturers because of its lack of experience in operating Chinese engines, but may consider trying them after initial upgrades to the network are completed.
Last month, the government finalized a deal to purchase 40 GE locomotives for $120 million (LE 680 million) using a grant from the Qatari Government. The 4,000-horsepower engines are due for delivery beginning September, 2008 at a rate of 10 per month.
The Railway Authority is undergoing a 24-month overhauling of its railroad network including upgrades to locomotives, passenger cars, signaling systems, stations, maintenance centers and employee salaries.
In August, the People s Assembly approved the allocation of $5.5 billion (LE 31.4 billion) to the Ministry of Transportation (MoT) to upgrade the 100-plus year old railroad network after a train crash in Qalyoub killed 58 and injured 144.
The Railway Authority now operates about 300 locomotives of the 700 available because of the deficiency in its maintenance infrastructure, according to Mansour. It employs more than 70,000 of MoT s 280,000 workers, and serves 1.5 million passengers per day, according to MoT figures.
Mansour has invited the private sector to participate in the railway restructuring program but has repeatedly denied the government intends to privatize the Railway Authority. By implementing public-private partnerships, increasing cargo transportation and raising first class fares gradually, the sector can become self-sustainable by 2012, he said.
According to MoT figures, the Railway Authority has incurred losses of more than LE 6 billion since 2002, adding to its estimated $3 billion (LE 17.1 billion) in incurred debt. The authority owns about 190 million sq. m. of land, most of which remains unutilized.