Train Accidents Unstoppable in Egypt

Train Accidents Unstoppable in Egypt

July 2022

Train Accidents Unstoppable in Egypt

Reem Allam and Hamdiya El-Sayed

Over twenty years, Successive Egyptian governments have announced at least 6 plans and projects to develop and modernize the country’s railway network with a budget of approximately $880 millions earmarked for their execution. Yet, the plans and the tens of million dollars allocated to them failed to achieve those goals.

Based on data figures and their analysis, this investigation assesses the execution of these plans and projects geared towards improving and developing Egypt’s railway network, in a way that curb the losses and increase its safety standards. It also highlights why these development plans have failed to achieve their goals.

Leading International Loans and Grants for Railway Development over the Past 20 Years

Click to view the data

Since the middle of last century, Egypt’s National Railway (ENR) development projects have depended on loans. In 1956, the Egyptian Rail Authority (ERA) National Railways company secured a loan of EGP 750,000 from the Post Office’s Saving Fund for five years at an interest rate of 4.5% to buy diesel-powered locomotives.

In December 2015, the Board of State Commissioners (an Egyptian Administrative legal oversight body) recommended that officials should be required to disclose the budgets of the National Railways and the amount of loans it has so far accumulated. This came after the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights filed a lawsuit against the National Railways Authority’s practices before the board of commissioners three years earlier.

Lawyers at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights said that if the loan figures were true in light of the budgets allocated by the state to the railways authority and the projects implemented to develop the network, officials should be held accountable administratively and criminally since train accidents are usually the result of negligence, the lack of signal safety system and their poor maintenance.

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حكاية ثاني أقدم سكك حديد في العالم

عام 1854، بدأ العمل بأول خط سكة حديد من القاهرة إلى الإسكندرية؛ ليكون النواة الأولى لسكك حديد مصر التي يتجاوز طولها اليوم 9 آلاف كيلومترٍ، كأول سكة حديد في الشرق الأوسط، والثانية عالميًا بعد إنجلترا.
اعتمدت الدولة وحكوماتها المتعاقبة منذ عام 1952 في خططها لتطوير مرفق السكك الحديد على رفع كفاءة البنية الأساسية لشبكة القطارات.

Monitoring of the Themes of the State Development Plan since 1952.

Railway Loans

In the late 1960s, railways reached a state of deterioration that led the government at the time to sign an agreement with Germany to develop this vital sector. Germany’s support and financing came through projects offered and implemented by D Consult GmbH, a German firm, according to Dr. Hamdi Barghouth, an expert in international transport. He also attributed the network’s deterioration during that period to negligence in replacement, renovation and maintenance operations.

In the early 1990s, the German government stipulated a gradual reform of railway economics in order to continue providing support, Barghouth says. This depended on achieving balance between revenues and expenditures within 10 years through gradually increasing transport costs. But the price increases were not adopted for political, economic and social reasons, according to the expert.

Hence, the German government refrained from offering new loans to the National Railways Authority, and its team of experts based in Cairo left after a 24-year mission at D Consult offices, which were located inside the Rail Authority’s headquarters at Ramses Square in Downtown Cairo

4 Egyptian and International Studies for Development that Have Not Seen the Light.

The Universal Railway Plan
on key issues and how to deal with them
(such as run-down operation efficiency, missing information systems).
14 elements to improve operation,
the most prominent of which are: (Get a charge for exemptions and projects, close five lines disused by passengers and making no returns).
It developed
five-year interim plans ( 2002, 2007, 2012);
infrastructure, fleet and traction units development.
Prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Organization (JICA) in 1996.
Transport Economics – Subsidy and Pricing
the concept of subsidy, its size and its importance.
for providing alternatives without any negative effects on national economy.
against the difference between financial and economic profitability due to subsidy
Conducted by the Ecogem international consultancy in 1991.
Transportation Economics
that the authority's financial deficit went down
by EGP 49Mn in 2001/2000.
to develop a policy to ensure optimal economic operation,
adequate service and security.
mechanisms for implementing this policy and developed plans for that.
Prepared in September 2001 with the help of foreign and Egyptian railway experts.
Improve Railway Cost Coverage
at defining and implementing strategic objectives.
for comprehensive central planning to ensure that costs are covered.
marketing and business management be represented at the highest level on
the board of directors.
Funded by the German Credit Institute for Reconstruction; prepared by Trans-Rak International in 1999.
Click Here

Stages of the Five-Year Development Plan

The Plan Sought the Development of the Railway Fleet

EGP 160Mn

to develop 260 vehicles
in 2003

EGP 476Mn

to develop 400 vehicles
in 2004

EGP 476Mn

to develop 400 vehicles
in 2005

EGP 276Mn

to develop 300 vehicles
in 2006

One billion and 388 million pounds


New Accidents
and a National Development Plan


Qalyub train accident, left 58 dead
and 140 injured


In late 2006, specifically after the Qalyub train accident, which left 58 dead and 140 injured, the Egyptian government decided through the Ministry of Transport to draft a new plan in cooperation with the international consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton called The Plan for Restructuring and Developing Egypt’s National Railways, the document attributed the deterioration of the railway system to lack of investment, poor safety and inadequate management.

The government allocated EGP 8.5 billion for the plan ($460 million), including EGP 5 billion ($270 million) immediately allocated from the proceeds of the third mobile license contracted by the government at that time. The rest would be earmarked from the state’s budget, then Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced. In addition, there would be funding provided by the Ministry of International Cooperation in foreign grants and loans, Majdi Radi, the spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told Al-Ahram newspaper in late August 2006.

Funding Provided by the Ministry of International Cooperation to Finance the Restructuring Plan

The Five Pillars of the Plan for Restructuring and Developing Egypt's National Railways

Support service safety
Introduction and improvement of safety rules and control systems for railway services.
Improve customer service
Support operational performance to make the network a more trustworthy and reliable means of transport.
Develop freight
Exploit the authority's potential in shipping of goods in strong competition with other means of transport.
Consider social responsibility
Develop mechanisms to enable National Railways to make profits, taking into account social responsibility, which is an obstacle to economic profitability.
Achieve financial self-sufficiency
Ensure profitability through cash flows and maintaining a high rate of investment.

Safety... The Development Goal that Has Never Been Met

As the implementation of the Plan for Restructuring and Developing Egypt’s National Railways started in 2006, the number of train accidents exceeded 1,000 a year, and the number gradually rose to 2,000 by 2010.

The development plan was also due to be completed by 2011, the year the country saw a revolution taking place and the toppling of the Mubarak regime. With the political and security upheaval that followed, trains traffic came to a halt, and with it the development plan was frozen temporarily.

As the railway operation returned gradually to full capacity by 2013, the rate of train accidents gradually increased, reaching its peak in 2018, which saw 2,044 incidents, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) data.

After the announcement of refurbishment and development plan was announced in 2006, more than 21,000 train accidents were recorded according to CAPMAS, which said 1,287 people died and 2,113 others were injured between 2002 and 2019.

Railroad accidents have risen in the past two decades

In 2018 2044 accidents were recorded while the lowest number of accidents was in 2011/12

The main reasons standing behind train accidents in the past five years

railroad tracks: A sloppy road that cuts the railway.

Transport Ministers and Authority Chiefs Have Quit Their Posts Because of Train Accidents

A continuous rise in the commission’s losses over the past 10 years

The year 2020 is the highest in terms of losses by 12.7 billion Egyptian pounds

An increase in the carry over losses over the past ten years

The commissions’ carry-over losses reached their peak in 2020 by EGP 78 billion

The decrease of expenditure on trains maintenance

The lowest expenditure was in 2011 as trains stopped during the revolution in the same year

The numbers of train passengers decreased by 34% in the past two decades

2013 was the lowest in the number of passengers as the total reached 183 million

Mounting Debts... And Eroding Assets

In mid-May 2020, during a meeting at the presidential palace, the debts of National Railways Authority amounting to EGP 250 billion or ($13.4 billion) of which EGP 100 billion ($5.37 billion) were owed to the Central Bank, the guarantor entity of all local loans granted to the Rail Authority, and EGP 150 billion ($8 billion) were loaned through the state budget for projects currently being implemented by the Ministry of Transport, were all presented by Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Authority’s debts to the Central Bank, which a presidential statement issued after the meeting estimated at EGP 100 billion ($5.37 billion), were accumulated by the Authority over years due to an annual deficit between daily operating revenues and costs that has hit 30% in 2019. This deficit was covered by overdraft from the Central Bank in loans entailing interest that the authority committed to settle, according to National Railways’ head then, Ashraf Raslan.

Interest Value Exceeds Loan Value

The Authority’s debts include the loans it had borrowed late last century and the interest that such loans have incurred due to repayment failure. Interest value has exceeded the original loans; the Authority’s former head, Ashraf Raslan, says he considers this the biggest part of the debts, which continue to grow annually. Something similar happened to the loans obtained by the Authority from the National Investment Bank (NIB).

The value of the annual interest for an EGP 10 billion loan ($540 million) was estimated at EGP 4.1 billion ($220 million) in the 2019/2020 financial year – and that is the interest for one year only. Hence, the interest amount exceeds the total of 20 loans obtained by the National Railways Authority from NIB during the last two decades. The value of the EGP 10 billion loan ($540 million), after adding the total interest, jumps to EGP 33.4 billion ($1.79 billion), said Raslan, during a meeting of Parliament’s Plan and Budget Committee in January 2020.

During the period set by the government (2006 - 2011) to implement The Plan for Restructuring and Developing Egypt’s National Railways of 2006, the Rail Authority obtained loans and grants from three international and local bodies to finance the plan.

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Three Bodies Grant Additional Loans to Support the Plan for Restructuring and Developing Egypt's National Railways.


Italian grant


the value of 20 loans from the National Investment Bank.


additional loan from the World Bank.

In August 2009, the World Bank approved a $270 million loan for the National Railways Authority, as part of the government’s planned funding for its implementation. The loan was increased in September 2011 to $600 million, after approving a so-called “additional loan” at a value of $330 million.

According to a report by the Central Auditing Organization (CAO) issued in 2013, “The Rail Authority was unable to properly plan, organize and prepare itself to benefit to the maximum from the World Bank loan”.

The report attributed the reason to be the “very slow leveraging of the World Bank loan,” which negatively impacted the implementation plan.

According to the Central Auditing Organization (CAO) report, it took the Rail Authority more than one and a half year to contract a company to implement the project after it received 22.5% of the total value of the loan. The contracting procedures took more than three years also from the date after the Authority was granted the right to access the funds of the loan, the report said.

This negligence also meant that the so-called “additional loan” from the World Bank was not leveraged by the Rail Authority for another two years according to CAO’s report (The agreement with the World Bank gave the international body review and financial supervision rights). The report showed that spending the $330 million loan started more than two years after the loan was granted.

The report called on the Rail Authority to make quick use of the loan to save lives and property.

The World Bank’s loan, which was due to expire in September 2015, in accordance with the project agreement, was closed in December 2020. The Egyptian government was able to extend the project implementation period and the reforms agreed upon with the World Bank three times (2017, 2019 and 2020).

A New Development Plan and a "Shabby Legacy"... Eight Transport Ministers Have Dealt with the Railways for Four Decades

Railway operators continue to announce new development plans and receive additional international loans for implementation. The Rail Authority, which is trying to settle its old debts, has received so far $2 billion approximately from 2017 until the completion of this investigation.