Monday,21 May, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)
Monday,21 May, 2018
Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Cairo’s ticket tornado

Mai Samih surveys opinion in Cairo after ticket prices on the city’s underground metro system doubled

Cairo undergound1

The Cairo Metro or underground transport system is one of the most reliable and easy ways of transportation in the city and was the first of only two metro systems in Africa when its first line from Helwan to Ramses was launched in 1987. Today, the metro transports some four million passengers per day.

However, recently the prices of tickets on the metro system doubled, with opinions varying among metro users on the justice of the move. Compared to other increases in prices in Egypt recently some passengers were willing to tolerate the increase. But any further increase in prices could lead them to consider other means of transport.

Ahlam Youssef, a housewife responsible for providing for her family including a sick daughter and a husband who is not able to work, said that she used the metro at least three times a week. “I usually take the metro from Mounib to Ataba. Although the tickets have increased in price, I will still take the metro as the buses are crowded and even more expensive. But I will not be able to live a decent life in this country if prices go up even more. We already have to pay a lot to buy food. This bothers me more than the metro ticket price increases,” she said.

Another housewife who takes the metro from Esaaf to Ain Shams agrees. “I don’t usually use the metro, so the increase is not a problem for me,” she said. However, she pointed out that the increase could be a problem for people who take the metro regularly, especially those with limited financial resources.

Others are more willing to tolerate the increase in metro prices, but with reservations. “I take the metro from Giza to Tahrir and only use one ticket per day. For me, the increase is fine since I have no children to provide for. However, if the prices go up even more this would be unjust to other passengers. We have already seen unprecedented price increases,” said Samira Haridi, a government employee and a widow who is soon to retire.

Cairo undergound

Haridi said the metro was a fast means of transport compared to others and was popular with people, especially the lower middle classes. Further ticket price increases would discourage them from using it, she said.

A university student who chose to speak on condition of anonymity said she used the metro six days a week and went through 10 stations from Shubra to Cairo University. “The prices of the tickets are not that high. However, I regret not applying for a student metro card. If the prices go up more I think I will subscribe to one,” she said.

She also said that the increase in the prices of the tickets should lead to better services. “Since they have started increasing the prices of the tickets, they should fix the stations as well and get new metro cars,” she said.

In March, Minister of Transport Hisham Arafat announced an increase in the price of metro tickets from LE1 to LE2. A source at the Ministry of Transport told the media that special needs passengers and “other categories” would have their tickets priced at LE1 and LE1.5. The decision followed a series of proposals in recent years to increase ticket prices in order to fix the financial woes of the metro, LE500 million in debt, according to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

The National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) which oversees the Cairo Metro was established in 1983, and the first line of the metro alone is now used by two million passengers per day. The second line is used by one million. By the time the third phase of the metro is completed, four million passengers will be able to use the metro service, which is also the number of commuters who come to Cairo every day. This should help to relieve the streets of cars and reduce Cairo’s often-difficult traffic.

Cairo undergound

“When the third phase of the metro is complete, it will serve about two million passengers. The first phase served 350,000 passengers per day. After the second phase was completed 600,000 used it per day. The three phases combined will exceed a million passengers per day. When we finish the fourth, it will exceed two million passengers,” commented one official speaking on condition of anonymity.

“According to feasibility studies, the first phase of the fourth line of the metro will serve some 700,000 passengers .This will decrease the traffic in areas like Pyramids Street and Giza Square that are the most crowded in Greater Cairo. The overall capacity of this phase will be 1.8 million passengers when it is complete,” former minister of transport Galal Al-Said said.

One passenger speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity said that “if the Ministry of Transport wants to increase the prices of the metro tickets it should relate the price to the number of stations. There should not be one ticket for all types of trips disregarding the number of stations.”

For example, the metro in the past charged each passenger PT75 for a journey from Esaaf to Tora and any further station from Ataba to Abassiya would cost LE1.25. “If prices increase more than they are now, it will be almost the same as taking a taxi. The metro should have considered the idea of one MP who said that there should be advertisements on the metro to bring in revenues without increasing the prices of the tickets. If the prices continue to go up, I think buses would be a better alternative,” he said.

“I think the police should monitor the metro to make sure people use the right doors so it becomes less chaotic, especially from Ataba to Mounib. This will save time and make more people want to use the metro since it will not be as crowded,” Haridi commented.

Other passengers want the police to do more to ensure that people who use the metro actually pay for their tickets, since some just jump over the barriers to avoid paying. There should be inspectors inside the cars to make sure every passenger has a ticket, they said, as otherwise fare-dodgers would lead to loses for the metro service.

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