Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1357, (17 - 23 August 2017)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1357, (17 - 23 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Tragedy on the tracks

As the investigation into Friday’s Alexandria train crash continues so does the blame game, writes Ahmed Morsy

 

Tragedy on the tracks
Tragedy on the tracks

A new head of the Egyptian Railway Authority (ERA) was appointed in the wake of Friday’s train crash in Alexandria which left 42 people dead. The accident occurred when a train from Cairo to Alexandria crashed into the back of a train travelling to Alexandria from Port Said. The hit train was standing at the platform of Khorshid station, a few kilometres from Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber, when the collision occurred. According to the Ministry of Health, of the 120 injured in the accident 12 remain in a critical condition.

On Monday Minister of Transport Hisham Arafat appointed Sayed Salem as temporary head of the ERA. Salem, the ERA’s deputy chief for safety, replaces Medhat Shousha who submitted his resignation before the accident took place.

Security sources say the two trains collided when the Port Said train came to a halt for reasons not yet known. Two train carriages were derailed during the collision. 

Arafat says that the Egyptian railway’s manual-operation system and poorly developed infrastructure are the causes of the crash. “Initial indications show that the collision is attributed to the reliance on humans for railway operation, as well as the lack of infrastructure development over decades,” he said. Meanwhile, Alexandria’s Governor Mohamed Sultan told the daily Al-Ahram that the driver of one of the trains was at fault for failing to notice a signal. Others have suggested the accident was caused by an act of sabotage.

Deputy Transport Minister Amr Shaath told MBC Masr TV channel that conversations between drivers and the surveillance tower are recorded and are now being examined by investigators.

Arafat met with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday to discuss the preliminary results of the investigation. According to a presidential statement, Al-Sisi ordered all concerned government departments to follow up on developments from the deadly train collision and form investigative teams in order to identify the cause of the crash.

Those responsible for the crash “must be held accountable and offered no leniency, regardless of their positions”, the statement said. It added that Egypt’s railway infrastructure was in urgent need of upgrading, including the installation of a completely electronic signal system, to “limit this kind of accidents and improve passenger safety”.

Al-Sisi extended condolences to the families of the victims. “The government will use its full resources to care for the injured,” state-owned MENA news agency quoted him as saying.

The Social Solidarity Ministry will disburse LE50,000 to each family of those killed in the collision.

The prosecution-general ordered the two drivers be detained and tested for drugs as part of the crash investigation. Eight railway officials have also been suspended until the investigation is complete.

Two other train accidents occurred this week. On Sunday a fire broke out on a Cairo-Aswan train forcing passengers to jump from carriage windows. On the following day a fire broke out on a Tanta-Damietta train. There were no causalities in either incident.

Over the last 20 years thousands of citizens have been killed in rail accidents. Egypt’s railway network, one of the oldest in the world, witnessed 1,249 accidents in 2016, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

Plans to develop the network, including installing a fully automated signalling system, will require LE45 billion by 2022, says Arafat.

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