Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The future of the Tram Café

Five months after its opening, revenues from Alexandria’s new Tram Café are up but residents are questioning its impact on the city’s traffic woes, writes Ameera Fouad

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Alexandria’s new governor, Hani Al-Messiri, has been paying special attention to the city’s tramways and the development of the network across the North Mediterranean Coast.

The Tram Café, a project that has seen the development of special luxury trams, was launched last April, followed by another project called Tram Garden launched in July. Now questions are being raised over whether the projects really serve the needs of Alexandria residents.

The governor has also paved the way for a 300 million euro French scheme to develop the Ramle tramway. The French Development Agency is to loan the needed funds to the Egyptian General Transportation Authority to upgrade the line that connects Victoria station to Ramle, in the centre of the city.

The Tram Café has added special tram carriages offering free Wi-Fi and a cafeteria serving beverages and light meals. But the cost may be too high for many travellers.

“I think it is possible for some people to pay the LE5 ticket required for access to the Internet in the special carriages, but for others this is not possible,” said Mahmoud Sedeeq, a ticket cashier.

“People have been choosing to go to the other carriages instead, which offer the same ride, though without the Internet, for 50 piastres,” he said, adding, “Of course, it depends on your financial status and whether you are able to pay LE5 for a simple ride between two stations.”

Khaled Yassin, a father accompanied by his wife and two children seated in the ordinary carriages, said that he had taken the Tram Café but would not use it every day. “I can’t afford to pay LE5 for every ride, especially if I am taking my family with me,” Yassin said. He added that if he had wanted to pay LE20 for four people he would have taken a taxi.

“Another reason for not taking the Tram Café is that I don’t want my children to get used to rides I can’t afford. The schools have not started yet, but when the school year begins I can’t afford to pay LE10 a day for each child to have access to the Tram Café,” Yassin said.

Sadek Al-Manflouty is from Ismailia and visits Alexandria every summer. He had heard about the Tram Café and Tram Garden projects in the news. As a result, when he arrived in Alexandria this year the first thing he wanted to see was the governor’s new projects.

“I had a picture of sparkling trams, spotless floors, pretty curtains, Wi-Fi and splendid buffet staff offering beverages and light snacks,” he said. “The first thing I did when I came to Alexandria was to take a ride on the Tram Café. In reality, the project only offers free Internet access, which I don’t need. What I really wanted to find — the sparkling trams and attentive staff — were not really much in evidence.”

For some, the Tram Café is just a luxurious ride, but for others it is essential. “Having taken many rides on the Tram Café, I can say I really enjoy it. The main privilege is the Wi-Fi, which means I can access online games and download songs,” said 16-year-old Ahmed Hassan.

“When I calculated how much I would pay in a cybercafé as opposed to taking the tram, I decided that taking the Tram Café would be cheaper and would also help me get to my destination,” he explained.

Although figures show that the revenues of the Tram Café have now outstripped regular tram revenues, this has not prevented fears among Alexandrians that the tramways need a different kind of boost. The renovations carried out as part of these projects have not helped many Alexandrians avoid the city’s traffic jams, for example, or eased their daily lives.

Amr Ismail, an architect and member of the Save Alexandria Group, said that he considers the projects to be by and large useless. “Although we all know that the intentions behind these projects are good, the city needs a metro, not smartened-up trams,” he said.

“It needs new roads, and it needs a solution for the traffic problems. We need the governor to pay heed to projects of this type, which would really make a big difference to the lives of all Alexandrians and not only the tramway networks.”

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