Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli last week witnessed the signing of an executive agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China (EximBank) to provide a $1.2 billion soft loan for the building of an electric rail link between Greater Cairo and the New Administrative Capital (NAC).
The agreement was signed by National Tunnels Authority Chairman Ahmed Fouda and Exim Vice President Sun Ping. The loan was first agreed in September 2018, during President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to China — his fifth since assuming office in 2014 — to attend the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
“The electric train will be constructed by Chinese companies under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport. The railway will connect with the third line of the Cairo underground network in Salam City’s Adli Mansour metro station. It will link Greater Cairo, Obour, Shorouk, Mostaqbal and Robiki with the NAC,” Khaled Al-Husseini, public relations manager for the NAC Urban Development Company, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The electric train will be the main means of transport from Greater Cairo to the NAC, Al-Husseini said. Construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2019.
Following the signing ceremony Transport Minister Hisham Arafat said the total cost of the electric train link will be $1.2 billion, of which $461 million — allocated for the infrastructure costs of the project — is being provided at a two per cent interest rate.
The remaining $739 million of the loan, which will cover the cost of the trains, will be provided at an interest rate of 1.8 per cent. The loan is scheduled to be repaid over 15 years, with an additional grace period of five years.
Arafat revealed the electric railway will include 11 stations and transport 350,000 passengers a day. It will have a maximum speed of 120km/hour along its 67.8km route, 60km of which will be on the surface, 7.5km on bridges and 3km through a tunnel.
The government is also planning to construct a monorail that will connect the Cairo district of Nasr City with the NAC, says Al-Husseini. The monorail will be constructed by the Ministry of Transport, in cooperation with the Ministry of Housing.
It will begin at the Cairo Stadium in Nasr City, proceed to the NAC via New Cairo and will run on an elevated single rail to avoid traffic intersections.
Earlier this month, Deputy Minister of Transport Amr Shaat told the media that three companies, one each from Canada, China and Malaysia, are competing to construct two monorails.
The first, at 52km, will link Nasr City with the NAC, while the second will cover a 35km route between Giza governorate and 6 October city. The monorail trains will travel at 80km an hour.
One objective of constructing the NAC is to relieve congestion in Cairo, one of the world’s most crowded cities. To do so will require a fast and efficient public transport network.
Ali Al-Biali, head of the Urban Planning Department at the Faculty of Engineering at Al-Azhar University, told the Weekly that, “as a result of a lack of planning the new urban communities east of Cairo [New Cairo] and west of Cairo [6 October and Sheikh Zayed], rather than solving congestion have contributed to it”.
Building a new capital, says Al-Biali, was necessary because Cairo is no longer able to absorb a rapidly growing population. The new districts that were built, he says, were located too close to Cairo and placed additional pressure on roads and services.
Establishing a new capital at a suitable distance from the old one will alleviate the pressure and help redistribute the city’s population at a time when Greater Cairo’s population is set to grow from 18 million to 40 million people by 2050.
“At 60km distance from Suez, the NAC will also play a role in attracting more investment to the Suez Canal Development Corridor,” says Al-Biali.
In addition to linking the NAC with Cairo, the NAC itself should be furnished with an efficient transport system.
Discussions are also underway with a private company to provide buses to transport people between the NAC and various Cairo districts, says Al-Husseini.
The construction of the NAC was announced during the Egypt Economic Development Summit held in Sharm El-Sheikh in March 2015.
The mega-project is being built on an area of 184,000 feddans, including 14,000 feddans of green belt, and is expected to be completed by 2020. It is equidistant from Cairo, Suez and Ain Sokhna, in the area between the Cairo-Suez and Cairo-Ain Sokhna roads, 50km east of the Regional Ring Road.
The area is already connected to Greater Cairo by the Cairo-Ain Sokhna Road on one side and the Cairo-Suez Road on the other, and will link with New Cairo via the Bin Zayed Axis currently being built.
The NAC will include residential districts, a government district, a justice district, a central business and financial district, an international airport, exhibition grounds and a convention centre, an educational district, a diplomatic district, a medical district and recreation centres including public gardens and parks.
Rami Galal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Planning, said that the transfer of state employees to the NAC will take place in 2020.
Galal pointed out that an estimated 50,000 employees are scheduled to be transferred to the governmental headquarters.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 24 January, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: An easy commute