CAIRO: News leaked Monday that Egypt’s Ministry of Transport plans to hike ticket fares for first-class railway vehicles and metro lines by 25 percent beginning July 1.
According to local reports, starting July 1 the ministry will raise prices of railway tickets for first and second-class air-conditioned vehicles to reach LE 140 for first-class tickets from Cairo to Aswan – up from LE 110 – and LE 68 for second-class tickets, up from LE 55.
The Ministry of Transport could not comment by press time, and sources at the Railway Authority could not confirm the news.
“So far, ticket prices remain unchanged, and we have not been informed of any new price increase in July, a senior official at the Railway Authority told Daily News Egypt.
Speculation that the ministry will raise railway ticket fares began mid-April on news that the government plans to lease four railway lines to private investors by the end of this year, in what could be a first step to privatize the national railway system.
“The government does not intend to privatize the national railway transport system by any means, and fares will remain unchanged especially in third class vehicles to protect low-income levels, Mohamed Mansour, minister of transport, said in April. “Any price increase will be in first class tickets only in return for better services.
Growing concerns over the government’s ongoing privatization program have reached the national railway system, raising fears that it might overstrain the poor. In Egypt, poorer segments of the society heavily rely on rail transport to commute from their hometowns to major Egyptian cities, where there are significantly more employment opportunities.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif reiterated earlier this year statements confirming that Egypt has no intention to privatize the transportation sector, but instead it plans to restructure and revamp the entire sector.
The ministry stated in April it expected investments of LE 10 billion in renovation of the national railway system. It would also earmark investments of LE 2.5 billion over the next three years towards face-lifting the country’s railway tractors and passenger vehicles.
The ministry plans to venture into public-private partnerships to upgrade the country’s railway system. Ministry officials revealed plans to auction off early next year construction of two new rail lines. The first will run across the Alexandria-Borg Al-Arab Road and the second across the Cairo-Sixth of October City Road.
“Egypt can’t sustain growth levels without a good transport system. Without a good transport system, how can you get one product from one place to another? How can you export products from one country to another? Mansour said.
“If we can’t have an efficient transport system, then we [are caught] in a bottleneck, he added.
Egypt s economy grew to more than 7.2 percent, its fastest annual pace in decades. Still, the country’s ailing transport infrastructure overburdened economic growth and development.
Angus Blair, head of research at Beltone Financial, pointed out that lack of public mass transport in Egypt in general and in Cairo in particular could slow down economic growth, as investors cannot afford to be caught in traffic congestion.
“Cairo is a mega city and lack of mass public transport will act as a bottleneck to its growth quite quickly. You have to look to trams and light railways very quickly because they are very quick to install. They have to be introduced very quickly across the whole of greater Cairo, from Heliopolis all the way to Sixth of October, he said.
“There’s a lot of attention to development of ports, airports, major roads, and railways between cities. But for Cairo, we ignore it in many ways and that would act as a major constraint to growth.because it slows people around.