Passengers waiting to take a train in Cairo's metro (Reuters)
Egyptians could be looking at yet another price hike in transportation costs as the government plans to study raising ticket prices for Cairo's metro.
A ride in Cairo's underground metro, the fastest way to move around the capital, is sold for LE1 ($0.13) per ticket for all destinations for customers despite a cost of LE9 for the government, said Mohamed Ezz Eddin, spokesperson for the transportation ministry. The government will study options to increase revenues, including raising ticket prices, at the beginning of 2015, he said.
"We will study whether advertisement inside the metro would be enough to cover the operation costs," Ezz Eddin said adding that if not, prices may be raised in accordance with "the number of stations travelled to by each passenger."
A state-owned railway management firm has acquired exclusive rights to advertise on the metro's three lines for LE175 million ($24.5 million) over the next five years, the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation (ECMMO) said in November.
The cost of transportation in Egypt rose significantly after the government cut fuel subsidies in July, raising prices at the pump by up to 78 percent. Fares for taxis and the more accessible, privately operated 14-passenger microbuses increased as a result. Public transportation on the other hand, primarily buses and the Metro, maintained prices.
Built in the 1980's, Cairo's metro transported about four million passengers daily in the 2013/14 fiscal year, according to ECMMO. The company expects to transport about 6 million passengers daily in 2019/2020.
Ezz Eddin said that any additional revenues raised will be used to upgrade the metro, "we plan to buy new air-conditioned trains and replace older ones to make the ride more humane in the summer heat," he said.
But for Ibrahim Ali, a middle-aged lawyer who takes the metro to go to court daily, the metro will remain his transportation of choice, even if ticket price is increased.
"I don't have an alternative, the metro is still cheaper than microbuses but price hikes will put pressure on my budget," he said as he went to ride the Metro from the downtown station named after late president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Salma, a pharmacy student in Cairo University said she might have to take a longer route if the ticket price increases to more than LE3.
A new phase of Cairo's third metro line linking Abbasiya in Central Cairo and the northeastern suburb of Heliopolis was inaugurated earlier this year. Once completed, the new line will stretch 43.5 kilometres from Cairo airport to Imbaba in Giza.
A fourth line is due to be completed by 2019.
France has already funded the construction of Egypt's three metro lines from 1979 to 2012, with loans amounting to roughly €1.2 billion ($1.47 billion), international cooperation minister, Naglaa El-Ahwany, said last week.