Egypt is building a $4.5 billion high-speed rail line (Photo-Gallery)

Passengers and cargo will soon be able to shoot through the Egyptian desert aboard a high-speed train, in a first for the country

German company Siemens Mobility has signed a $4.5 billion contract with Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels to deliver the country’s first high-speed and electrified train line (pictured in a rendering). The first 660-kilometer line will connect Cairo to new cities. See more Egyptian mega projects being built for the country’s growing population. Siemens

The high-speed and electrified main rail line will connect Cairo to the New Administrative Capital and surrounding new cities.

Pictured here in a rendering, Siemens says the new rail line will create a “Suez Canal type of link on the tracks,” for both goods and people — transporting more than 30 million people per year and increasing freight capacity by 15%. Siemens

German company Siemens Mobility signed a contract with Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) earlier this month to build the initial 660 kilometers out of the planned 1,800-kilometer network, creating “a Suez Canal type of link on the tracks.”

This aerial view from March 2020 shows the ongoing development of Egypt’s “New Administrative Capital” megaproject, on a swath of desert roughly the size of Singapore. Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

The first line will link the port cities of Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea to Marsa Matrouh and Alexandria on the Mediterranean. According to the company, the first section of this line will be operational in 2023.

These new towers are under construction in the capital city, which is being built from scratch some 45 kilometers east of Cairo. Ahmed Hasan/AFP via Getty Images

Siemens, which is partnering on the project with Orascom Construction S.A.E. and The Arab Contractors, says the total contract is worth around $4.5 billion, of which its share is approximately $3 billion.

A ‘Suez Canal on tracks’

Egypt’s population is over 100 million, having more than doubled since 1980. Cairo, with a population of around 20 million, is sprawling into the surrounding desert.

Plans for the new capital were announced back in 2015 and construction has been underway since. Proposals for the city include housing for five million people, over 1,000 mosques, smart villages, the world’s largest park, and a financial district (shown in this image from 2019). Pedro Costa Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

To cater to that growth, the fast train fits within a wider set of infrastructure spending in Egypt, including its new capital 30 miles east of Cairo.

“[The train] will cut traveling times and it will make rail the most effective choice of travel,” Micheal Peter, Siemens Mobility’s CEO, tells CNN. “In Egypt, the population is growing, the economy is growing — so it will attract a lot more traffic and the question is which type of transportation will people and goods use.”

Egypt’s Suez Canal underwent an $8 billion expansion in 2015, with another round starting earlier this year to further widen the canal — which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and offers the shortest sea route between Europe and Asia. Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

According to Siemens, the connection will transport more than 30 million people per year and will cut travel time by as much as 50%, while also increasing freight capacity by 15%.

This image shows the two channels of the Suez Canal during the opening ceremony of the expansion in 2015. The new 35-kilometer channel was designed to increase the capacity of ships. Further improvement will be vital for economic growth in the coming decade. David Degner/Getty Images

“The high-speed train will strengthen the infrastructure of the areas it passes through and help achieve urban sprawl,” said Kamel El-Wazir, Egyptian minister of transport, in a press release.

Pictured, ongoing construction work at Maspero station on the Cairo Metro’s third line in November 2020. A fourth line running from central Cairo to the Giza Pyramid Complex is also planned, including a monorail. Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

The hope is the line will also help promote tourism — an industry the country relies on heavily.

A mega project

Siemens Mobility says it will provide the core technologies — high-speed trains, commuter trains, and rail infrastructure — while NAT will build the civil structure, such as tunnels and bridges. To complete the project, it says 15,000 local jobs will be created.

“Completion should be somewhere around 2027,” says Peter. “We have good experience in executing these types of megaprojects.”
In addition, Siemens says the electrified system will cut carbon emissions by 70%, compared to the current emissions from car and bus transportation.

Peter says that Siemens will sign contracts to build the next two lines in the network, connecting the Greater Cairo region with Aswan, and Luxor via Hurghada to Safaga.

“This first line is only part of the whole thing,” he says. “I foresee a signature very soon.”

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