Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Cairo Metro tickets double

The prices of tickets on the Cairo Metro system doubled over the weekend

Cairo Metro tickets double
Cairo Metro tickets double

For months there have been rumours about a hike in Cairo Metro ticket prices, with officials often coming forward to deny them. Last weekend, without prior notice the hike went through, doubling the price of a standard single-fare metro ticket from LE1 to LE2.

“It was a surprise, but there is still no other choice,” said Hassan Hussein, who rides from the Hadayek Al-Qubba station to work in Dokki. “The metro is the easiest way of transport to avoid the traffic and reach your destination quickly,” he said.

The move follows a series of proposals by officials in recent years to increase ticket prices to deal with the financial woes of Cairo’s vital underground.

“We have been struggling with debt since 2004 when electricity prices went up, and we spend 40 per cent of the metro’s income on electricity,” Ahmed Abdel-Hadi, a National Tunnels Authority spokesperson, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The decision to increase the price was an attempt at offsetting annual losses, he added. “We have a LE500 million debt,” he said, explaining that this was the result of the high cost of maintenance, upgrades, and the launch of new metro lines to cover more of Greater Cairo, as well as security and the healthcare of drivers.

According to statistics from the National Tunnels Authority, over 3.5 million of Greater Cairo’s 21 million inhabitants depend on the metro for their daily travel, considering it to be one of the cheapest and safest means of transportation.

Sahar Hassan, a university student who rides from Mounib in Giza to Cairo University, explained that “I am for the increase in the ticket price if it is going to improve the quality of service and increase the number of trains. For me, the metro is the best means of transportation, and even if I have to pay more I will still be satisfied because it takes me so quickly to the university.”

But others think differently. Alia Osama, a housewife who has four children she has to take on a daily basis to their schools, thinks the fare increase is a disaster. “I have to pay LE10 each way every day already. It is too much for my budget, and I am going to stop using the metro and will use buses instead as they are cheaper,” she said.

Mahmoud Helmi, who works as an engineer and has to ride the metro for 12 stations, thinks the increase is fair as everything else has also increased in price due to the floatation of the Egyptian pound. He said that if he used any other means of transportation, he would not pay less than LE10 and would arrive late because of the traffic.

Nonetheless, he hoped the increase would mean an improved service. He added that in almost all European countries fares were higher than in Egypt.

Hoda Mohsen, a 45-year-old worker, was not happy about the hike, saying that “everything has increased except our wages. What are we supposed to do? If the decision to raise the ticket price was so easy, why is a similar decision to raise our salaries so difficult?”

Lamis Mohamed, a lawyer who works in downtown Cairo, explained that the metro was the best means of transportation even if the ticket had doubled in price. “It is priceless to ride in a special carriage for women, and you do not have to be squeezed at rush hour with men and teenagers bothering you on the trip. It is a great invention that we should all have to pay for to keep going.”

According to Abdel-Hadi, prior to the hike in prices LE50 million worth of tickets was sold monthly, while expenses reached LE75 million. “Now [after the price hike] we will make LE90 million and pay LE75, so will have LE15 million extra for maintenance and service improvements,” he said.

He clarified that annual subscriptions for the elderly had increased from LE150 to LE200 and that student monthly subscriptions had gone up from LE22 to LE33, which was only a slight increase. Tickets for the disabled had been kept unchanged. “In other words, we have increased the tickets for only 60 per cent of passengers,” he said.

But were there other means of repaying the LE500 million debt? Abdel-Hadi said all options had been studied, including more advertising in metro stations, but these would have been temporary solutions as the economic situation was not stable.

“If we postpone maintenance now because of costs we will not be able to do it later because prices could double or triple,” he said.

Regarding the idea of dividing the prices of tickets according to stations, Abdel-Hadi said this “is a great idea, which is why we bought 850 new gates from France and will start installing them in two weeks’ time.” With the inauguration of the third line next year, the new payment system according to stations may start.

Cairo’s underground metro system was launched in 1987 and is now one of the oldest in the Middle East and Africa. Construction operations on the fourth and final phase of the third line started last year and is expected to begin operations in 2019/20, according to government statements. At completion, the metro will have a total of six lines.

In January, Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Railway Construction Corporation to construct Cairo’s sixth metro line. The project will cost $3.5 billion and stretch over 24km.

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