“If they’ve just started drilling the metro extension then what have they been doing for the last year,” complains microbus driver Hussein Sayed. His route, he says, has been obstructed by construction works for at least 12 months.
Anyone who drives in downtown Cairo or in Mohandessin and Zamalek is aware that a metro line is under construction.
“It feels like roads have been closed and traffic diverted for ages now,” says Sayed.
“Work on preparing stations for the extended metro began in December 2016,” National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) Spokesperson Hassan Tawfik told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Now the drilling process itself has started.”
According to a Ministry of Transport statement, utilities obstructing the path of tunnels have been relocated and construction of the Abdel-Nasser and Maspero stations is complete. These are the first two stations the third line of the metro will cross after leaving Ataba station.
The third phase of the divided line will extend for 17.7 kilometres and cover 15 stations on its journey to the Rod Al-Farag Ring Road Axis and, after splitting at Gameat Al-Dewal Al-Arabiya, to Cairo University.
Phase three is being implemented in three parts, says Minister of Transport Hisham Arafat. Part one, which is four kilometres long, includes the section from Ataba to Kit Kat. Served by four stations — Abdel-Nasser, Maspero, Zamalek and Kit Kat — it is scheduled to be inaugurated in November 2021.
Noha Mahrous is looking forward to the line to travel from her house in Kit Kat to her work in Maadi, which lies on the first metro line. “It will make my daily commute much easier and faster,” she says.
Part two of the third phase will be 6.6 kilometres long and will run from Kit Kat to the Rod Al Farag Axis. It is due to open in June 2022. The third and final phase covers 7.1 from Kit Kat to Cairo University and is expected to be completed in November 2022.
The third phase of the line will cost LE44.5 billion, 60 per cent of which is being met by the Agence Française de Développement and the European Investment Bank, with the remaining 40 percent funded by the state.
When it is finally completed the third metro line will run for 45.5 kilometres and be served by 36 stations. It will be the first transversal line in the Cairo metro network, intersecting with the first and second lines and linking the east to the west of Cairo.
Currently it extends from Al-Ahram Street to Ataba but when the fourth phase is completed it will reach Cairo International Airport.
The government is committed to completing Cairo’s metro network which will eventually include six lines, it said in a cabinet statement, and provide “flawless transportation services for citizens”.
The metro system, Prime Minister Sherief Ismail’s statement added, plays a central role in reducing the pressure on Cairo’s main roads and axes and will serve an estimated 9 million passengers daily when all six lines are operational.
Cairo’s metro system, which was launched in 1987, already carries more than four million passengers per day. The first two lines have a combined length of 50 kilometres and cross beneath the River Nile at a single spot. Line three will have two additional Nile crossings.
Work on the third phase of the third line follows recent increases in metro ticket prices. Tickets went up from a flat rate of LE2 to LE3, LE5 and LE7 depending on the distance travelled.
According to the Ministry of Transport, the actual cost of a ticket is around LE16. The ministry says price rises were necessary to cut losses and reduce debt.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 31 May 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly with headline: Going underground