The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $440m loan, on Saturday, to support Egypt’s initiatives to enhance the safety and service quality of its railways.
The Railway Improvement and Safety for Egypt (RISE) project is expected to cost a total of $681.1m, including $241.1m in contributions from the Egyptian National Railways (ENR).
The project will focus on modernising the signalling apparatus for the Cairo–Giza-Beni Suef segment of the country’s network. It will also go towards supporting the reforms needed to enhance the ENR’s performance and competitiveness.
“Today, more than ever, there is a great need to develop sustainable infrastructure,” said Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat, “Redefining smarter transportation solutions improves safety, enhances mobility, safeguards the environment and strengthens job creation and economic growth.”
She added, “This project supports the momentum for reform, and the demand for urban mobility and reliable public transport, integral to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].”
The ENR network comprises of over 5,000 km of rail tracks, and primarily offers passenger services for low-income Egyptians. About 270 million passengers took trains in fiscal year (FY) 2018/19, up from 228 million in FY 2014/15 and 247 million in FY 2009/10.
Over the years, the ENR has faced multiple obstacles that show there is a margin for the improvement of its performance, namely in the realms of operations, cost recovery, maintenance, and customer service.
“This operation builds on the World Bank’s policy dialogue with Egypt in the transport sector, including on institutional and governance arrangements, and safety and regulatory aspects,” said Marina Wes, World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, “We are keen and committed to continue to support this vital sector which provides critical services especially to low-income citizens, helping to increase access to employment opportunities and markets.”
The newly approved RISE project is a continuation of the Egypt National Railways Restructuring Project (ENRRP), which concluded in 2020. It focused on upgrading the signalling system of the Alexandria – Cairo and Beni Suef – Nag Hammadi segments.
“Modernising and reforming Egypt’s railways is critical to meeting citizens’ travel needs and boosting the overall economy,” said Kamel El Wazir, Egypt’s Minister of Transportation, “Improving the service for millions of passengers per day is a priority, particularly because citizens depend on the ENR to access jobs and do other tasks, including fulfilling personal errands.”
He added that increasing freight transport is also a critical objective, which will increase the economy’s overall competitiveness. Through partnering with the World Bank on this project, Egypt aims to enhance the performance of this important sector, he noted.
The RISE project will modernise the signalling system and track upgrade works along the Cairo – Beni Suef segment. It will also continue the ENRRP’s works along the Alexandria – Cairo and Beni Suef – Nag Hammadi segments, at a total length of 763 km.
The RISE project aims to improve safety for ENR passengers and workers in a holistic and systemic manner by introducing an upgraded Safety Management System. Service quality will also improve due to the better punctuality, which is expected to increase from 75% to 90% of trains running on time.
Additionally, the RISE project seeks to advance the railway modernisation efforts promoted by the Ministry of Transport, to align ENR with international best practices by introducing performance-based funding.
According to a Ministry of International Cooperation press statement, Egypt’s transportation sector contributes 4.6% of the country’s GDP and 6.2% of job opportunities.
The Ministry of International Cooperation ensures a broader understanding of safe mobility which is necessary as it helps put citizens’ livelihood at the core of all the ministry’s projects.
In its 2020 annual report “International Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Writing the Future in a Changing Global Dynamic”, the transportation sector received a total development financing worth $1.8bn. This aims to achieve both the UN SDGs and Egypt’s 2030 Sustainable Development Vision.