File photo: People riding the underground in Cairo
The spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Transport, Mohamed Ezz, said in a phone call on Thursday night to Mehwar TV's 90 Minutes programme that the decision to increase the fare for a ride on Cairo's underground metro comes at an appropriate time and is necessary in order to overcome the vital service's significant fiscal deficit.
Late on Thursday, Egypt’s Ministry of Transport raised metro fares from a flat rate of EGP 2 per ride to between EGP 3 and 7 based on a new zone system.
Rides up to eight stops will now cost EGP 3; rides from nine to 15 stops will be priced at EGP 5; and rides 16 stops and over will cost EGP 7.
The government last raised the metro fare from EGP 1 to EGP 2 in March 2017.
Meanwhile, Minister of Transport Hesham Arafat told DMC TV's night-time programme that the decision was necessary to finance and upgrade the infrastructure of the first metro line, which is now 30 years old and needs EGP 30 billion in renovations.
Arafat also said that the decision was being considered over the past year with special consideration to citizens' socio-economic concerns.
The fare increase does not apply to students, the elderly or people with special needs, the minister noted.
“This system of dividing the metro lines into zones and setting the ticket price according to the number of stations passed by passengers is implemented all over the world," Arafat said.
The head of parliament's transportation committee Hesham Abdel-Wahed criticised the sudden implementation of the decision without giving any notice or a chance for citizens to prepare, adding that the Ministry of Transport is the only party responsible for the way that decision was announced.
“The transportation committee has already set criteria for increasing the price of the metro tickets, linking any increase to enhancing the quality of the service provided and taking into consideration citizens' socioeconomic concerns, as well as not affecting the fares of employees and students," Abdel-Wahed said in a phone interview with DMC TV channel's night-time program on Thursday.
Abdel-Wahed explained he only learned about the decision from the media, and has called for a meeting with the minister of transport as soon as possible.
He also said that the metro's first line is approaching a state of collapse due to lack of sufficient funds.
The cost of transportation in Egypt rose significantly after the government cut fuel subsidies in July 2014.
Built in the 1980s, Cairo's metro transported about four million passengers daily in the 2013/14 fiscal year, according to the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation (ECMMO).
The company expects to transport about 6 million passengers per day in FY 2019/2020.
The last construction phase of Cairo's third metro line is set to be completed by the end of 2018, with a fourth line due to be finished by 2019.