The latest major accident took place on Tuesday when 17 people were killed and 4 injured after a microbus collided with a truck on the recently upgraded and widened Western Desert Road in Upper Egypt’s Sohag governorate.
The Sohag accident comes nearly a week after the country’s official statistics agency issued its annual report on the number of injuries and deaths in road and railway accidents.
Egypt saw a 9.3 percent drop in road accident injuries in 2021 compared to 2020, while the rate of railway-related injuries saw a 46.5 percent increase over the same period, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) said in its annual report last week.
Traffic injuries nationwide in 2021 reached 51,511, down from 56,789 in 2020, according to the CAPMAS report.
However, CAPMAS said that road accidents in 2021 claimed the lives of 7,101 people nationwide, up from the 6,164 deaths recorded a year prior, a 15.2 percent increase.
Daqahliya governorate recorded the highest annual rate of road accidents throughout 2021, recording 11,630 injuries, while Luxor recorded the lowest number with 102 injuries.
The number of males injured in traffic accidents reached 41,670 in 2021, compared to 46,324 injured in 2020, with a decrease of 10 percent, while the number of females injured reached 9,331 in 2021, compared to 10,222 in 2020, a decrease of 8.7 percent.
The 9.3 percent decrease in injuries from road accidents in 2021 comes in light of the ongoing National Road Project Egypt has been implementing since 2014 that aims to develop and extend the country’s 23,500 km road network.
The Ministry of Transport has recently said that during the past eight years, 5,500 km have been built as part of the national project, 7,500 km of roads have been developed, and 900 bridges have been constructed.
When the national project was launched, Egypt was ranked 118th in terms of the quality of its road infrastructure in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. By 2019, it had climbed to 28th place.
“The decrease in injuries [in road accidents] is not an indication and doesn't necessarily reflect the reality. This is because we do not have the mechanism yet to monitor road accidents in Egypt, and that is why it is difficult to predict the reasons for the decline [of injuries],” Osama Okail, a professor of Road and Railway Engineering at Ain Shams University, told Ahram Online.
“The number of recorded accidents or their related injuries and deaths are only the ones reported by the police. And this doesn’t always happen, as in some cases accidents and minor injuries are not reported,” Okail said.
He does, however, believe that the bigger the road network and the larger the number of people, the more accidents will consequently occur. He added that the same is true when there are more advanced cars with higher speeds.
Egypt’s population reached 103 million in February 2022, up from 102 million people in July 2021, according to CAPMAS. As for the number of cars, almost 291,000 new vehicles were sold in 2021, which is 26 percent higher than in 2020, according to the Automotive Information Council.
“And hence, when we have the same annual rate of accidents, this should be considered an achievement because it is normal that it increases each year,” Okail said.
Concerning railways, CAPMAS said that there were 978 accidents in 2021, compared to 898 in 2020, an increase of 8.9 percent.
This has occurred despite the development plan the ministry has been executing over the past few years.
Egypt’s railway sector, the second-oldest in the world with 9,570 km of track running across the country and transporting around 500 million passengers annually, was in need to be radically upgraded. The dilapidated railway network frequently made the headlines until mid-2021 due to major accidents. The latest was the tragic train collision that occurred in Sohag governorate in April 2021, which led to the deaths of 18 people and the injury of 200 more.
In a July statement, the ministry said that 110 new locomotives have been received out of 260 contracted for, and 45 locomotives have been renovated out of 172. It added that 658 new carriages have been supplied out of 1,300. The plan is to raise the efficiency of 1,273 carriages, of which 1,235 have been renewed.
Some 580 railway level crossings out of 1,120 have been built, the ministry noted.
Nevertheless, CAPMAS said that railway-related deaths also increased by 36.8 percent, with 405 fatalities recorded in 2021, up from 296 in 2020, as a result of railway mishaps nationwide.
Moreover, injuries from railway accidents reached 769 in 2021 with a 46.5 increase from 525 in 2020.
“No one can deny that a great effort has been made and a huge budget has been spent on developing the railway sector in Egypt in recent years,” Okail said, adding that “again, the numbers don’t always reflect the reality”.
The transport ministry has announced that the plan to upgrade the railway network includes developing locomotives and carriages at a total cost of EGP 48.2 billion through various agreements.
“When a train’s door is forcibly opened during a trip, this is recorded as an accident, and the same when a train going faster than normal when slowing down in a station,” he said, “and whenever an upgrade or development in terms of machines happens, the more accidents will be recorded.”
He did, however, say that when an overall upgrade happens, including machines, training, and frequent maintenance, accidents should decrease.
Importing engines and coaches as well as upgrading the signalling system were important, he said, but they were not enough, as the human element is responsible for their operation. Management is also an important element of the modernisation process, he added.
Minister of Transport Kamel El-Wazir said on Monday that the Railway Authority’s debt had reached EGP 88 billion pounds, but now EGP 83 billion of this debt has been paid.
“Now we have achieved revenues of up to EGP 9 billion annually, which was approximately EGP 4 billion the previous year, and our expenses are worth EGP 10 billion,” El-Wazir said, adding that there is only an EGP 1 billion deficit.
The minister added that from next year, and specifically from the beginning of August 2023, the sector will no longer be incurring losses.