Plans by Egypt to embrace Japanese high-speed-rail technology moved closer to becoming a reality in March after the North African country signed a loan agreement with Japan for the construction of a new $1.2-billion metro line in Cairo. The loan agreement for $400 million, which is the first portion to be channeled through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, will enable Egypt to start phase-one construction in September of the metro's Line 4 as the new government moves to address chronic traffic chaos in Africa’s largest city.
The contract will be awarded to a Japanese firm, according to the terms of the loan agreement. Phase one runs 18 kilometers in length, with 17 stations. A detailed engineering design is being prepared by a joint team of Egyptian and Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) experts and will be released ahead of the contract award.
“The loan will be allocated to construction … of the metro tunnel, construction of the stations and [workshop] buildings, procurement of electro-mechanical equipment, signal and communication facilities, rolling stock and other related works for the project, in addition to the supervisory consulting services,” according to a joint statement signed by Minister of Transport Dr. Galal Moustafa Mohamed Said and JICA President Sadako Ogata.
The Ministry of Transport, through the Egyptian National Authority for Tunnels (NAT), will soon float a tender for consultancy services, before selecting a contractor. This loan is the first official development assistance (ODA) loan for Egypt from Japan since the so-called Arab Spring, which toppled the 30-year-old regime of former strongman Hosni Mubarak. The project, which goes live in 2020, is part of the Greater Cairo Metro Project, which has four lines that will provide the 17 million residents of Cairo with an alternative to driving.
Cairo's chaotic traffic jams and air pollution are expected to be reduced substantially with Line 4's completion as the new transport capacity will bring down the demand for public-transport trips, which are estimated at 8.4 million per day; Cairo’s public transport is said to have a capacity of only 4.9 million journeys now. The huge gap between demand and supply has led to an increase in the number of taxis in the streets of the city.
“The road maintenance and improvement are not catching up with the increase in the amount of traffic [that] accompanies a rapid increase in population and economic development. [The] traffic jam has become a chronic problem,” JICA said in March. The first phase of Cairo metro's Line 4 construction runs from the city’s Sixth of October suburb through the new Grand Egyptian Museum to El-Malek in central Cairo.
“We are expecting to begin working on the site within the next … year,” said Ashraf Mabrouk, chief program officer for JICA in Egypt. Line 4 will move an estimated 1.35 million passengers within the first year of its operation; the line is expected to accommodate 1.87 million passengers by 2027 and 2.5 million by 2050, according to NAT.
An environmental impact assessment by Egyptian environmental consultancy firm Environics, under a subcontract by JICA, has given the project the green light to proceed. “In general, the negative impacts created by the construction of this metro line will be moderate,” says Mohammed Fangary, an urban planner at Environics. However, Ahmed Dorghamy, an environment management consultant for JICA’s study team, warns, "A reduction in air pollution and decongestion of traffic will only happen if more private car owners [make] the decision to use the metro.”
In February, Egypt commissioned the first phase of the third of the four lines running from Imbaba/Mohandiseen to Cairo International Airport, a distance of 34 kilometers. The line will have 29 stations, 27 of them underground.
The $305-million, 4.3-km Attaba-Abbassiya stretch, with an underground depth of 40 meters, opened in February after 51 months of construction. Work was done by a consortium led by Vinci Construction, France, with Bouygues Travaux Publics, France, and the Egyptian firms Orascom and Arab Contractors.
Phase two of the five-phase metro Line 3, which includes 6.2 km linking Abbasiya to Al Ahram, is nearing completion under a $736-million turnkey contract awarded to the Vinci Construction-led consortium. The line goes live in 2014.