Egyptian Transport Minister Kamel El-Wazir said as many as 153 projects are currently being implemented to modernise the country's railway system, 27 of which are included in the ministry's budget for the coming fiscal year, with a total cost of EGP 132 billion (nearly $8.2 billion).
The government is addressing the "rickety" railway system with caution as the overhaul process is being implemented while the trains are functioning, El-Wazir said in an address to the Egyptian House of Representatives on Monday against the backdrop of the train accidents that hit the country over the last month.
The minister noted that up to 177 railway projects were recently completed.
"A total of EGP 1.7 billion (nearly $108 million) have been spent to develop railway stations," he added.
Over 40 train passengers lost their lives while dozens were injured in two train accidents that took place over the past month in the Upper Egypt governorate of Sohag and Nile Delta governorate of Dakahleya.
Probes into both accidents are underway to identify the causes of the accidents, while the country’s prosecutor-general ordered the detention of a number of railway staffers pending investigation.
El-Wazir sent a letter to Parliament Speaker Hanafi Gibali, demanding to address MPs concerning the reasons which caused a flurry in train accidents last month and his ministry's plans to modernise the railway system.
Egypt’s railway sector -- the second-oldest in the world with 9,570km of tracks running across the country and transporting around 500 million passengers annually -- needs to be radically upgraded, according to experts.
“Until the government overhauls the railway systems, regrettably similar accidents might occur,” Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said following the Sohag accident.
The transport ministry's plan to fully upgrade the railway network is scheduled to continue until 2024 at a total cost of EGP 225 billion, according to previous remarks by El-Wazir.
During Monday's address, the transport minister said his ministry has a strategy to develop the railway lines for a distance exceeding 10,000 kilometres.
He noted that the five-pronged plan includes training human cadres and improving their performance.
He added that the plan also comprises upgrading mobile units, facilities, buildings and railway stations, adding that when he assumed office around 50 percent of the locomotives were idle and this has greatly affected the service.
El-Wazir also noted that the ministry is seeking to provide the highest rates of safety and link its railway grid with Arab and African countries using the latest technologies.