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Sunday, 9 May 2021

Three foreign companies bidding to manage Egypt’s railways

Three foreign companies are bidding to help manage Egypt’s railways: The Transport Ministry is in talks with three unnamed international companies to help manage the country’s rail network, reports Al Mal, citing unnamed sources in the know.

Who’s in so far? Details are sketchy so far, but the sources say that French transport company RATP Dev, a German firm and a Russian company are all involved. RATP Dev, which operates the Paris metro, recently won a contract to operate the planned electric rail between Salam City and Tenth of Ramadan City, and is expected to run Cairo Metro Line 3.

And what are they bidding for? It’s still unclear exactly how the government plans to integrate private sector firms into management of the nation’s rail network. Sources recently outlined various models being considered by the government, which include allowing companies to manage different sections of the network, and handing full control over passenger trains to a single company.

The next step: The companies will each present a detailed long-term plan for improving the country’s railway system, which the government will then evaluate.

Whatever happens, nothing is going to change before 2022. Regardless of the time needed for the Transport Ministry to study the scenarios and make a choice, it is highly unlikely that any company would agree to assume responsibility for Egypt’s railway infrastructure as it currently stands. The wait time is necessary until the country’s railway signaling system is upgraded and the Egyptian National Railways (ENR) takes receipt of the remaining Transmashholding railcars next year, the sources said. Transmashholding has so far delivered 260 railcars under a EGP 22 bn contract signed with ENR back in 2018.

A long time coming: Plans to bring the private sector into the fold had originally been in the works back in 2018, when the Transport Ministry began procedures to establish private sector-run companies to manage each railway.

The past six weeks have brought a new sense of urgency: The need to improve the country’s ailing railway system has been amplified over the past six weeks following a string of deadly accidents. Hundreds were injured and tens killed in a succession of rail accidents in March and April, including a derailment in Qalyubia and a collision in Sohag. Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir came under fire last month in parliament as he was questioned about the recent accidents, which have perhaps contributed to the new momentum behind privatization.

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