Egypt’s first mass-transit link between Greater Cairo, the New Administrative Capital, and 6 October city and extending for almost 100km is set to be the longest monorail system in the world.
The project will involve the construction of two monorail lines. The first will extend for 56km from eastern Cairo to the New Administrative Capital. The second, 43km long, will connect 6 October city and Giza. The monorail will intersect with the Cairo metro Line 3 as well as the high-speed rail network.
The first line is set for completion by the end of 2022, the second by April 2023.
When completed, the monorail “will be a fast, safe, and eco-friendly mode of transport,” said Sally Al-Tahhan, head of the project in the New Administrative Capital.
“The monorail doesn’t produce any harmful emissions, and it solves the problem of congestion. It provides efficient transport to the new cities that currently suffer from a lack of transport facilities,” she added.
“The monorail will also not take up any space on the ground, and the implementation stage will not take a long time because the monorail is suspended above ground. This differentiates it from the underground metro system that took longer to build because it requires a lot of digging,” Al-Tahhan told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The first phase of line one extends from the New Administrative Capital to the Al-Moshir Mosque Station in Nasr City, while the second phase stretches from the Al-Moshir Mosque to the Cairo Stadium Station.
The monorail is connected to the Cairo metro Line 3, extending from Nasr City to Mohandessin. There will be a monorail station in front of the Cairo Stadium and another near the Zamalek Club, Al-Tahhan stated.
Line one of the monorail will provide transportation between Nasr City, the New Administrative Capital, and New Cairo’s Fifth Settlement, connecting the three Greater Cairo areas with each other. “Some 23km of the 56km line are located in densely populated areas of Nasr City. Line one has 22 stations which have not yet been named. We are using codes to refer to the stations until the Ministry of Transport decides on the names,” she added.
“To get from the New Administrative Capital to Ataba, Abbasiya, Bab Al-Shariya, or Ramses Square, commuters will switch stations at the Cairo Stadium to get on the Cairo metro Line 3 which passes through Downtown Cairo,” Al-Tahhan said.
“The Downtown area is very congested, and it can be difficult to get around using private vehicles. At the moment, people switch between tuk-tuks, buses, and microbuses to get from one place to another in this area,” she added.
“The monorail project is meant to connect the east and the west of Cairo. It will benefit commuters most in areas where the metro and the railway lines currently do not fit well together,” she added.
The route of the monorail was designed according to the needs of the public and investors, Al-Tahhan said, adding that the locations of the stations were carefully chosen to encourage people to move to the new cities. The sizes of the stations and the distances between them differ according to the number of residents in each area and the services available, she explained. For example, there will be seven stations in the densely populated Nasr City district.
The New Administrative Capital, housing government and state institutions in addition to business, financial, and residential districts, will also have several stations.
Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, director of the monorail project in Nasr City, told the Weekly that construction began in September 2020 and was preceded by 18 months of feasibility and traffic studies to pinpoint the location of each station with the aim of minimising traffic congestion and facilitating transport.
Stressing that the size of each station was different, Abdel-Rahman said the stations where commuters switch trains, such as in the Ramses and Ataba districts, were larger than others.
“Construction on the line connecting Nasr City with the New Administrative Capital was planned to begin in September and end before the start of the World Men’s Handball Championship held in Egypt from 13 to 31 January. Now that this phase is over, the line is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022,” he said.
“It will be followed by a three-month trial period during which the monorail will be tested at different speeds to ensure it will operate at full capacity,” Abdel-Rahman added.
There is no room for error, he added, explaining that “testing the system also includes trial runs on the guideway beams and piles that extend metres underground. Sonic devices are used to test durability and homogeneity between the concrete and the piles.”
Abdel-Rahman underscored that “the construction and testing processes are being conducted according to the highest international standards to ensure maximum quality.”
NEW CONNECTIONS: Moetaz Refaat, overseeing the extension of the line over three stations from the New Administrative Capital, explained to the Weekly that the 22 stations will be built after the completion of the path of the monorail.
“The current phase focuses on the construction of the piles, the concrete columns, and guideway beams in their assigned places,” he said.
Mohamed Attia, manager of the project in 6 October city, said that thanks to their travelling “at a speed of 80km per hour, it will take monorail commuters not more than 40 minutes to get from Lebanon Square to 6 October city.”
The monorail is designed to operate “high above the ground to decrease congestion in the areas and streets below”, Attia said.
“One of the advantages of the 6 October monorail is that it will connect the Sheikh Zayed area with the Ring Road. In addition, the Cairo metro Line 3 will connect the monorail with the Wadi Al-Nil Station in Lebanon Square. This way, commuters can move from 6 October city to the New Administrative Capital in 90 minutes, using the Cairo metro Line 3 between the Wadi Al-Nil and Cairo Stadium stations,” he said.
“The path of the monorail from 6 October city will also include a station in the Engineers Syndicate area, where it will be possible to get on the high-speed train connecting to Ain Sokhna and Alamein city,” he added.
“The Arab Contractors Company began construction on the 6 October line in January 2020 with a workforce of over 1,500, all of whom are working around the clock to meet the deadline of April 2023.”
Attia said there had been challenges facing the construction in the area, such as the traffic transfers the company had had to implement from the industrial zone in 6 October city to the 26 July Corridor.
Another challenge has been the compulsory purchases necessary along the 5km of the line in the Mansouriya and Marioutiya districts. “Coordination is currently underway with the Survey Authority to transfer ownership, and this will enable us to continue work on the course of the monorail,” he stated.
The course of the 6 October monorail includes 12 stations, the most recent of which is Bashteel, “constructed according to the latest technology and logistics services. The Bashteel Station will be the last stop for trains coming from the Upper Egyptian governorates, a plan that aims at facilitating transport for residents from the south and alleviating traffic at the Ramses train station in central Cairo. The Bashteel Station will also help to connect Upper Egypt with the 6 October city, the New Administrative Capital, and Downtown Cairo,” Attia added.
The 6 October monorail is at a higher level, giving the impression that it could be difficult for some commuters to climb the stairs to the stations. However, “all the stations on both monorail lines will be equipped with escalators,” Attia commented.
Each station will be built on two levels: the first for buying tickets, and the second for accessing the trains. The 6 October Station is the last in the city area, and it is where a workshop for storing and maintaining the monorail trains is being built on an area of 76 feddans.
The Canadian Bombardier Transportation Company will “maintain and operate the monorail for 25 years,” Attia said. The project will start with 30 trains and is planned to expand to 70 trains, at which point monorail trains will pass through the stations every 90 seconds.
The Arab Contractors has two mobile workshops where the guideway beams are manufactured and stored. One serves the 6 October line, and the other is currently in Future city, serving the New Administrative Capital line.
The 6 October monorail requires 3,200 concrete guideway beams, with two beams installed on each pillar, Attia said. The beams are consolidated with iron cables before the concrete is poured onto them to increase their durability and to withstand heavy loads, said Sameh Younis, an engineer from the consulting office in charge of the guideway beams.
At present, 13 guideway beams are being manufactured per day. The plan is to reach 70 a day, Attia said, adding that different sizes are being used for the monorail project.
“Sideway beams should be more durable than straight guideway beams. Curved guideway segments are manufactured according to the path of the monorail, so their curve ranges from being acute, reaching 80 degrees, or being a simple curve,” he explained, adding that there were nine areas in 6 October city that require curved guideway segments.
“Curved guideway beams take longer to manufacture because their production involves a more complicated process,” he added, stressing that the manufacturing is being closely monitored by the consulting company in coordination with the Egyptian Tunnels Authority.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 July, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly