Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) is developing a 1,870km high-speed rail network to transport passengers and cargo. The project comprises three lines and is expected to cost more than LE350 billion.
German company Siemens Mobility and the NAT signed a contract in early September to build the first phase of 660km. Siemens is partnering on the project with Orascom Construction and the Arab Contractors.
The new high-speed rail network will be a state-of-the-art integrated rail system with high-speed fully electrified main and freight rail lines. The system is designed to reduce energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions by 70 per cent compared to car and bus transportation.
The first line is 660km long and will stretch between the port of Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea and the Mediterranean ports of Marsa Matrouh and Alexandria. It will include 21 stations and is expected to transport more than 30 million people a year, reducing travel times by up to 50 per cent.
The second line, 925km long, will connect 6 October city with Aswan. It will have 28 stations, nine for high-speed trains and 19 for regional trains. The third line, 285km long, will link Qena and Luxor in Upper Egypt to Safaga via Hurghada along the Red Sea coast. It has five stations, three for high-speed trains and two for regional trains, with an interchange between the second and third lines in Qena.
The three lines are branded green, blue, and red, respectively, Ahmed Farouk, managing director of the project, told Al-Ahram Weekly while speaking at one of the sites where a mountain was being blown up to make way for the new rail line.
The third line targets Egypt’s tourism sector and will enable travelers to take one-day excursions to cities such as Luxor, Aswan, and Hurghada, Farouk said. While construction is ongoing on line one, work on the second and third lines is expected to begin in 2022, he added.
The Weekly toured different sites along the line to Ain Sokhna, assisted by Bedouin guides who know their way around the desert. Farouk said work was underway on the green line in four main areas.
The first area includes building railway bridges, and the second includes further work on bridges, tunnels, and culverts. These require technical studies on infrastructure, encroachments, and flood drains in desert areas on the Ain Sokhna, Dabaa, and Marsa Matrouh roads. Flood drains will be constructed to pass under the railway line.
The third area is concerned with stations, infrastructure, operations, and passenger movement. Siemens is handling the fourth area, which is related to installing the rails themselves, connecting the electricity network, and supplying the carriages and wagons.
“Siemens will begin its work when ours ends,” Farouk said. “When the bridges are ready, Siemens will install the rails and the electricity network through the 40 power stations spaced out along the track that are needed to operate two passenger trains at speeds of 250km/h and 160km/h and a freight train to transport goods and containers from Ain Sokhna to industrial zones and Mediterranean ports at a speed of 120km/h,” he added.
“This railway line will be as economically valuable to Egypt as the Suez Canal,” he said.
“After cargo ships arrive at Ain Sokhna, goods will be transported within hours to industrial zones and land and sea ports in Marsa Matrouh, Garboub, and Alexandria, and then on in other vessels leaving for Europe and the Americas,” Farouk said.
“This will enable goods to be transported without the risk of moving them by trucks, which is expensive and harmful to the environment and the economy due to fuel exhaust fumes, road damage, and possible accidents. Transporting cargo by high-speed train reduces energy consumption and accidents by 75 per cent and increases national income,” he added.
“Egypt is investing in a smart transport system and modern electric traction to create a clean and environmentally friendly means of transport that is characterised by speed and safety and that contributes to the development of other fields, including health and education.”
“The system will relieve the pressure on diesel-operated vehicles, alleviating the pressure on the railway network. The blue line starts in 6 October city and ends in Aswan and will be operated in parallel with the existing Cairo-Aswan railway line, which will inevitably lead to alleviating the pressure on the latter and provide an opportunity to develop it and the work on its modern signaling system,” Farouk said.