File photo of Cairo's third metro line. (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the government is grappling with the financial woes of Cairo's vital metro underground as the facility suffers from massive debts of some EGP 500 million, state news agency MENA reported.
Ismail told reporters on Wednesday that the first of the Metro's three existing lines alone requires 350 million euros worth of maintainance and upgrades, excluding debts and the total cost to run.
"It is very difficult that the situation is continuing this way," Ismail said.
The prime minister said the government is currently looking at ways to fund the payment of outstanding debts.
Last week, the Cairo Metro Company's spokesman told Ahram Online that the company is failing to cover maintenance, electricity and water expenses due to a lack of resources.
Metro officials have repeatedly said the low ticket price, which has not been increased for over a decade, is one of the main reasons contributing to the service's losses. There have been repeated proposals to increase the ticket price in recent years, which officials say could double annual revenues, but the cabinet has yet to approve such a measure.
The parliament was due to discuss the matter this week.
Cairo’s underground train system, launched in 1987, is one of the oldest in the Middle East and Africa.
Over 3.5 million of Greater Cairo's 21 million inhabitants rely on the subway for their daily travel, according to estimates by the country's national tunnels authority.
Construction on the final phase of Cairo's third metro line is set to begin by June, according to Transporation Minister Hesham Arafat.
A fourth line, financed through a loan from Japan, is planned and would begin operations in 2019/20.