Cairo trains function for first time in 10 weeks

Osman El Sharnoubi, Tuesday 22 Oct 2013

28 trains arrive and depart from Cairo's Ramses station after August closure

A train in Cairo's main station with a the Egyptian Railway Authority logo, (Photo: Reuters).

For the first time since 14 August, Egyptian trains pulled in and out of Cairo's Ramses Station following stoppage by the Interior Ministry due to security concerns.

On Tuesday, 28 trains were due to arrive and depart from the 159 year old station, prompting relief for many passengers who have been forced to take less comfortable means of transportation in recent months.

The Cairo-Sohag line is still out of order.

Ashraf Belal, a government employee who travels from Sohag to Cairo and back several times a month, says he was forced to pay LE85 for jam-packed microbus transport.

"We're subjected to thuggery; they raised the prices to LE85 instead of LE50 when the trains stopped, and we have to pay since there is no affordable alternative," Belal, who pays LE40 for that train ticket, told Ahram Online, adding that he views the railway as a convenient and cheap way to travel, especially for the poor.

Long lines formed at ticket windows and first class tickets were quick to run out. Some were disappointed that the last trip to Alexandria was at 5:30pm, when previously it was at 10:30pm.

Salah Haggag, an Engineer from the Nile Delta city of Zagazig believes the trains were closed due to the failure of Egypt's National Railway Authority to maintain its service.

"There is no security problem; the railway authority failed to provide a decent service and had to close temporarily. Why are trains working outside of Cairo [if there is a security issue]?" Haggag asked.

Nagwa Albeir, spokesperson for the National Railway Authority denied such accusations.

"We are ready to work at any moment," she said in a statement to Ahram Online, asserting that the halt is in place purely due to security concerns.

Albeir however wouldn't elaborate as to what these security concerns were.

Unlike before the disruption, travellers entering the station had to file through metal detectors and have their bags and luggage x-rayed.

Cairo's main underground Metro station was also halted for security reasons. The station lies below Tahrir Square, where Morsi supporters have announced their intentions to stage sit-ins on several occasions.

Egypt has experienced political instability since Morsi’s ouster in July, as cycles of protest and confrontations with police have turned violent.

The dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo by security forces in August led to the deaths of more than 600 pro-Morsi supporters and over a hundred police.

In response, supporters of the deposed president have been accused of attacking numerous police stations, churches and government buildings.

Egyptian security forces said they found explosives in various locations in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

Railway authorities have incurred LE4 million in daily losses as a result of disruption to operations, according to Albeir.

Egypt's railway service transports around 500 million passengers annually (1.4 million per day) at full capacity, according to the railway authority's website.

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