By Mohamed Derwish and Rehab Saber
The Ministry of Transportation has completed three roads spanning a total length of 700 km, with the remaining proposed roads at 70% completion. Meanwhile, the completion rate of various roads being constructed by the Ministry of Housing ranges from 20% to 75%.
Major General Adel Tork, President of the General Authority for Roads and Bridges, stated that the authority has completed 700 km of roads at the first stage of the National Roads Project, out of a total of 1,109 km spread out over 16 roads at a cost of EGP 20bn.
He added that the roads that have been completed include the Martyr Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel, the El-Shatt-OyounMoussa Road alongside the Upper Egypt-Red Sea Road, and the Middle Ring Road.
Tork explained that all roads in the first stage of the projectwill be completed by December, and the rate of completion for all roads being constructed by the authority has reached approximately 70%.
The list of projects being carried out by the Ministry of Transportation includes the 33 km long regional ring road named the Ismailia Agricultural-Banha Road, the 40 km Shubra-Banha Road, the 90 km Farafra-AynDallah Road, the 55 km Minya-RasGharib Junction, and the first stage of the Middle Ring Road at 35 km.
The Ministry is also developing the 160 km Qena-Safaga Road, the Regional Ring Road known as the Banha-Alexandria Desert Road, the Assiut-Sohag -Red Sea Road, and the Sohag-Hurghada Road.
Other roads scheduled for completion include the 70 km Suez Road, the 80 km Southern Fayoum-Oasis Road, the 180 km Sohag-Red Sea Road, the 35 km junction linking the Suez Intersection Tunnel to the El-Shatt-OyounMoussa Tunnel, the 90 km El-Sheikh Fadl-RasGharibRoad, the 134 km Wadi El-Natrun-El-Alamein Road, and the Cairo-Suez Road, which will be the first concrete road in Egypt and will serve heavy transport vehicles.
According to Tork, several projects have been ruled out, as they would not have produced any revenue for the state, such as the Khash Al-Raqaba Road. He also said that a plan to develop and improve the efficiency of the Ring Road has begun at a cost of EGP 300m.
The authority has completed works to improve the efficiency of 168 bridges across the country at a cost of EGP 232m, with another 214 bridges due to be completed within the current fiscal year at a cost of another EGP 200m.
The General Authority for Roads and Bridges has carried out maintenance on 488 km of roads recently at a cost of EGP 1.3bn. Additionally, the authority is planning to improve the efficiency of 433 km of roads during the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Major General Saad al-Geoushy, former president of the General Authority for Roads and Bridges, stated that the goal of the project is to create new urban and economic communities as part of a development plan. It also seeks to decrease traffic within the governorates and to create new job opportunities.
Although a large portion of the National Roads Project’s first stage has been distributed between the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Housing, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued a decision to assign the implementation of the project’s second stage to the Armed ForcesEngineering Authority, on account of “slow transportation methods” during the first stage.
Engineering consultant MamdouhHamzasaid he believes more than 50% of the National Roads Project involves the expansion and development of existing roads. The remaining percentage will go towards the construction of new roads.
“But we could have done without some of these roads,” he went on to say, “and we could have used these investments for more important projects for the Egyptian people.”
He added that a portion of the roads projects is important for reducing traffic. However, a number of these roads within the project are not widely used. In some cases, only one car passes through these roads every hour. According to Hamza, improvements on such roads were not pressing and could have been delayed.
Hamza explained that the Ministry of Transportation made a mistake by not creating a complete layout for the National Roads Project and leaving the consulting schemeto each contractor individually, according to the portion of the project entrusted to him/her.
He noted that the autonomy required between the contractor and consultant has disappeared and the two have become one party. This, says Hamza, is against civil law.
Hamza pointed out that the implementationperiod for the National Roads Project is very short. This has resulted in huge mistakes concerning both the bidding for the project and its implementation. Moreover, the consulting period had been shortened. On top of all that, the project was not proposed to the contractors, but was assigned by direct order, he said.
Hamza said that the goal of national projects is to revitalise the economy, provided that they use funds from the local markets. However, as a result of the speed with which the project has been carried out, companies have headed abroad to buy new equipment. Additionally, they have has to import bitumen in order to meet the needs of the Egyptian market.
Hamza stressed the importance of providing maintenance for the equipment that is in Egypt and keeping record of the percentage of tar and asphalt that is extracted annually. This guarantees that investments will remain within Egypt. According to Hamza, the National Roads Project should have been implemented over the course of three years in order to provide the necessary time to both propose the project to companies and to design the roads.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Sabri el-Hakim, Professor of Engineering at Al-Azhar University, said that the there is a more pressing demand for the condition of existing roads to be improved before beginning construction on any new roads.
He added that the government should have carried out maintenance on high-density roads before they collapse, pointing out that the Ministry of Transportation resorted to completely closing off the Wadi El-Natrun-El-Alamein Road when the road collapsed due to the lack of required maintenance.
Moreover, there must be feasibility studies that confirm the benefits to be derived from the project before any steps are taken to carry it out.
He noted that a mass transportation plan was completed in cooperation with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency(JICA). The plan was presented to the Egyptian government in 2012. After that, the projects were distributed according to priority, sources of funding, and implementation timetables.
He pointed to a proposal that was put forth back in 2005 for a network of highways in Greater Cairo, which was completed in 2008, along with a study on the cooperation between the public and private sectors to carry out the proposal. In addition, feasibility studies were conducted for the project.
“The plan was presented to the Minister of Transportation,” Hamza went on to say, “and he approved for it to commence.” However, the project ground to a halt for no apparent reason, even though Japan offered to completely finance the project right after the 25 January Revolution in 2011.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Housing is carrying out the construction of three roads spanning a total length of 601 km as part of the National Roads Project, at a cost of around EGP 3.5bn. The Central Agency for Construction has taken on the bidding and allocation process, in addition to supervising the construction operation through three of its subsidiaries.
“Roads are the influential factor in development,in addition to attracting investments,” Major General Mohamed Nasser, president of the Central Agency for Construction, said. “They also make it easier to connect different development zones to any investor looking to develop an accessible plot of land that is near energy and water sources.”
Naser said that first road will be the 95 km-long 30th of June Corridor that runs parallel to the Suez Canal at a cost of EGP 1.8bn. The road has reached 20% completion and is due to be completed by next April 25th.
The Sinai Construction Agency is supervising the construction of the road and has been carrying out construction operations at its 50 km long southern section of the Ismailia-Port Said exchange path, after having begun work on the northern section two months ago.
Nasser said implementation works for the corridor have been distributed between Al-Radwan Specialist Contracting, Wurud Trading and Contracting Company, theGeneral Nile Company for Roads and Bridges, the Engineering Supply Company, Al-Mumaiz Contracting, and Al-Adel Contracting Company.
He said that the road links Mediterranean ports such as Alexandria, Damietta, and Sharq El-Tafriaa to the regional Ring Road. The corridor is built between the Ismailia-Port Said Road and the Cairo-Mansoura Road in order to reduce pressure on the Agricultural Road, along with aiming to develop the Suez Canal and moving trade between Upper Egypt and the Delta.
He added that the second stage of the project is set to include development zones on the sides of the road, such as national projects in the fields of manufacturing. The region is promising from a developmental perspective, and is located within a number of crucial communication points, which will facilitate transportation and commercial exchange.
The Central Agency for Construction is working on two routes from Port Said and Ismailia. Furthermore, there is a major response from citizens to voluntarily give up their rights to own the land, according to Nasser. This confirms that the corridor is by far one of the most important corridors being constructed and will contribute to serving the development of the Suez Canal, thereby increasing the rate of development and raising the efficiency of ports north of the canal, he added.
He explained that the 30th of June Corridor is a freeway being constructed in two directions. Each direction has three lanes for cars and two lanes for trucks. Regarding the road’s course, it will be built from the 5th km on the International Coastal Port Said-Damietta Road up until the 92d km on the Cairo-Ismailia Desert Road, passing through the main intersections of the ShadirAzzam-Al-Salam Canal Road, the Qantara-El-Salahiyia Road, the El-Fardan-El-Salahiyia Road, the 36 El-Harbi Road, and the Ismailia-Zagazig Agricultural Road.
Nasser said that the Central Authority for Construction completed a study on the addition of a branch to the Corridor at an expected cost of EGP 500m. The study is expected to be presented before the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Defence for ratification. The new branch seeks to link Sinai and Sharq al-Tafriaa to both the Delta governorates and the 30th of June Corridor, in addition to reducing travel time between Sinai and the Delta.
Nasser said that the proposed route achieves a number of goals, the most important of whichis connecting the Delta governorates to Sinai and the Suez Canal governorates. This will facilitate the resettlement process in Sinai, as well as the transportation of day workers from the Delta governorates to industrial zones in the canal cities, Qantara, and Sharq al-Tafriia.
Nasser noted that the distance that citizens currently travel will be cut to 85 km, or around an hour’s travel time. In addition, this will ease traffic on the Agricultural Roads linking Cairo to the Delta, as well as on the 30th of June Corridor.
He added that the special study for the proposed route was presented in detail toMinister of Housing MostafaMadbouly before being presented to the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Defence for its approval, in preparation for its submission to the political leadership and the Prime Minister for ratification.
The study was carried out with technical support from Osama Aqeel, Professor of Road Engineering, Transportation and Traffic at Ain Shams University. He explained that work on the proposed route would begin immediately upon its ratification, as an addition to the original corridor.
The Central Authority for Construction is also carrying out construction on the 196 km long BeniMazar-El-Bawiti Road at a cost of EPG 720m. The implementations is being carried out by the Northern Upper Egypt Construction Authority.
Nasser said the BeniMazar-El-Bawiti Road has reached 75% completion and is set to open in a ceremony on 6 October. The road will link the Minya governorate to the Bahariya Oasis, with the goal of completing a horizontal line connecting the entire republic, starting from the coast of the Red Sea at RasGharib and going all the way to the Siwa Oasis at the western border.
He added that implementation is distributed between the Alexandria Construction Company (part of the TalaatMoustafa Group Holding), Abdullah Hassan Contracting, and the Cooperative Productive Association for Building & Construction – Assiut, in addition to the Egyptian contracting companies Egyptian Contracting (Mokhtar Ibrahim) Company, Delta Contracting Company, and Mohamed Sabra Contracting Company.
The authority is also building the 310 km Assiut- Farafra Road at a cost of EGP 1bn, which has reached 65% completion and will be finished next December. The road aims to connect the New Valley region to Upper Egypt to assist in establishing complete urban communities along the road. This will be part of the upcoming stages of development. The road also aims to use available land in the region for agricultural and industrial activities.
He added that the companies carrying out construction of the road include the Arab Contractors Co., Hassan Allam Construction, Egyptian Contracting (Mokhtar Ibrahim) Company, Contracting and Trading Engineering House, United Construction Company, the Cooperative Association for Construction, Mahmoud Abdel Wahab for Contracting, and FawzyRefai for Contracting.
Nasser explained that the completion rates for the roads that the Ministry of Housing has taking on are very high when compared to typical completion rates for road projects, especially considering that work is being done on the entire road at once, and not in designated sections. The roads will be finished ahead of schedule, he said.
Nasser further pointed out that road services are being carried out in tandem with the new roads’ construction, and are proceeding steadily according to the project’s implementation schedule. Some of these roads have reached a completion of rate of 10% per month.
He added that the required funds for carrying out the project have been provided through additional credits for the budget, whereas the government has allocated EGP 1bn during the last fiscal year. Moreover, EGP 2.5bn has been provided this fiscal year, due to the importance the state has placed on developing roads, and to helping support new development projects in general.