Running on time: Improving public transport networks remains a key priority

One of the main challenges Egypt faces is the concentration of activity in Cairo, with the capital accounting for more than half of formal sector jobs in the country. Forecasts indicate that use of the city’s transportation trips will almost triple in a decade, going from 12.7m trips per day in 2011 to 33m by 2022. Commuting can be complex, and reliable information about public bus routes and schedules is scarce enough that an Egyptian entrepreneur created a smartphone app to serve as a guide. Though multiple solutions to Cairo’s transportations problems have been proposed, many fall into two general categories: moving some functions out of the city core and into new suburbs and expanding the existing public transportation options.

Shifting Outward

Decongesting Cairo by moving things to new areas is a trend that has helped to develop New Cairo, a north-eastern suburb, located to the south-east of the airport that offers newly constructed residential, commercial and office space. The area has become a prime source of grade A office space, and is also the new home of American University in Cairo, for decades located downtown, with its campus off Tahrir Square. Other ideas that have been proposed to decongest Cairo include the development of a new capital city, which could see ministries move from the centre of the city. That idea, which was announced in early 2015, would cost $45bn according to the government, and its scale — roughly 700 sq km, with an airport larger than London’s Heathrow and a park twice the size of Central Park in New York — has prompted some debate. However, construction has begun on the project, with domestic contractors breaking ground on basic infrastructure and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation inking an agreement for an unspecified portion of the project.

Improving Networks

However, a more crucial focal point for Cairo’s transport planners is expanding and improving existing networks. The metro opened in 1990, and the long-term vision features connecting the city proper to its new suburbs. As of mid-2016 Lines 1 and 2 are fully complete, comprising a 78-km network. Line 3 is partly operational and still under construction. In June a contract to resume the fourth phase of the line was awarded, worth LE6bn (equivalent to $318m as of December 2016) and won by Arab Contractors and Egypt’s Orascom Construction Industries. Once complete, the 33-km line will connect Cairo Airport in the east to Mohandiseen in the west, passing through downtown along the way, with funding expected to come largely from the state. Lines 4, 5 and 6 are in the planning stage, and are expected to boost capacity to 5m passengers daily upon completion, which could be as early as 2020 — according to Egyptian National Railways, the state operator of the national rail network. (Alprazolam)

The Japan International Cooperation Agency has provided $1.2bn for the first phase of Line 4, and indicated an interest in contributing to future phases. Line 4 will be an east-west route, connecting New Cairo in the east to Haram in the west. Other development financing is coming from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which will provide loans of at least €100m, and up to €175m for Line 2 alone, as well as planning funding for future lines.

While the metro remains a focus area, other public transport options are in the works as well. On the Nile, 14 new terminals are needed for ferry service, as well as the renovation of 16 existing ones, with the government investing $66m in the project. The service would be run by the Cairo Transport Authority, the city’s provider of public transport services other than the metro. The governorates of Cairo and Giza, two of the three municipal regions that comprise the city, are also working with relevant federal agencies and UN-Habitat, which helps with urban development, on a bus-rapid transit network in the city. The plan envisions routes in Giza, Nasr City and New Cairo as part of a 42-km first phase costing $210m. It would seek to involve private sector partners in ongoing services such as bus operations.