Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The race for Rod Al-Farag

An army of labourers is racing to finish building the Rod Al-Farag Axis by the end of the year, as Karima Abdel-Ghani inspects this new mega-project  


The race for Rod Al-Farag

Massive construction projects have been built in different parts of the country over the past three years, with one of them, the Rod Al-Farag Axis at one of the main entrances to Cairo, having been in the works for the past two years.

The two-way axis, estimated to cost around LE8 billion, comprises six lanes of roads in each direction along with two lanes for buses and an electric metro train line. Started in 2015, the project is due to be completed by the end of the year, with the promise that it will contain the biggest flyover in the world.

Project manager Mohamed Fawzi told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the Rod Al-Farag Axis will help ease traffic jams and save 200,000 litres of fuel per day. Constructed in parallel to the 26 July Axis, the project has taken 300,000 tons of steel and a million cubic metres of concrete to build.”

Fawzi explained that the axis connects north and east Cairo to west Cairo at the Cairo Alexandria Desert Road. It also connects the Red Sea Coastal Road to the new Galala Road that goes from Zaafarana to Ain Sokhna with the Mediterranean Sea Coastal Road through the Dabaa Axis.

He said that the axis would facilitate the movement of trucks to Dabaa and desert land, create new communities and investment projects, and decrease travel times between the north and west of the country.

The first phase of the project was inaugurated in January last year and consists of a partial link between the Cairo Ring Road and the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road with a total length of 29km.

“The second phase, executed by the Arab Contractors Company under the supervision of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, is more difficult. It extends for only 15km but includes heavy infrastructure works such as water pipes, a sewage system, and electricity and telephone cables in addition to new traffic plans for crowded areas,” Fawzi said.

“This area is one of the main entrances to the capital, and the phase includes constructing three flyovers starting at the Ismailia Canal, through Shubra Al-Madhalat, and all the way west of the Ring Road in the direction of the Cairo Alexandria Desert Road.”

The main flyover comprises five sections with exits and entrances at Shubra, the Ring Road and Warraq. There are three others, the first being the East Nile Flyover that extends for 540 metres with a width of 60 metres and a maritime passageway that extends for 300 metres to allow the passing of ships.

The second is the West Nile Flyover, and the third passes over Warraq Island and is being executed with ready-made casts to help to finish it quickly.

“We are racing against time to finish the project as planned and within the allocated budget,” Planning Manager Mustafa Hamed told the Weekly. One of the problems the construction team had encountered was the fact that the infrastructure network of gas, electricity and water was different from that indicated in the blueprints received before commencing the project.

“The blueprints were old, and we had to redesign the area, which cost us time,” Hamed said. Another problem was that the area houses the main pipeline for Cairo’s water. In order to complete the work, the Armed Forces had had to pay residents to find another place to live or to provide them with alternative housing, he explained, adding that many buildings had to be demolished and the area cleared.

“Planning is a process that doesn’t just precede a project. It goes hand in hand with a project. Planning only ends when the project is finished and is approved by the quality control inspectors,” Hamed said.

According to Chairman of the Arab Contractors Mohsen Salah, 4,000 engineers and labourers were contributing to building the Rod Al-Farag Axis. The equipment used includes 50 winches supplemented with wire cables than can lift 600 tons, 27 piling rigs, two vessels constructed specifically for the project at a cost of LE46 million and a number of ships.

Salah said that the East Nile Flyover would be registered with the Guinness Book of World Records as the widest flyover in the world.


AROUND THE CLOCK: “We have been working on the project around the clock in three shifts of eight hours each. It is a very ambitious project to finish the construction in three years,” Youssef Elwani, head of the project’s Technical Office, told the Weekly.

Am Seoudi, the worker responsible for transporting labourers and equipment to the project site, told the Weekly that shifts started at 7am and ended at 8pm for ferry workers. “The most important instruction we received was to finish the project with the utmost precision and in the shortest amount of time. We will not rest until the project is finished,” he said.

Standing on scaffolding to paint part of the flyover, worker Essam Mohamed told the Weekly that “I work from 8am to 4pm. When we are pushed for time, I work two shifts until midnight.”

The race for Rod Al-Farag

According to Elwani, the project is being carried out entirely by Egyptian engineers and workers, though some foreign expertise has been called in for certain parts. “We used Chinese and German companies for some consulting work, and we imported some equipment to achieve the highest quality,” he explained, adding that a Japanese company had also constructed the Al-Salam Flyover above the Suez Canal in cooperation with the Arab Contractors Company.

Mahmoud Al-Khenizi, head of the Safety and Sanitation Division at the Flyovers and Specialised Construction Authority, was having a periodical meeting with the workers on site when he was approached by the Weekly.

“The challenge of this project lies in completing it without disrupting traffic flows or putting the lives of workers or members of the public at risk,” he said. Before embarking on the project, safety and emergency plans had been drawn up for each phase. Loads of 10 tons have different safety requirements to loads weighing 30 tons, for example. Loads exceeding 100 tons are dealt with using extreme caution and require double-checking before operations begin.

“Training workers carefully in their specific roles minimises hazards,” Al-Khenizi said, adding that “before embarking on any operation the labourers are trained on how best to lift heavy materials, tie them with ropes, and choose suitable weight-locks. The engineers also attend field awareness meetings, and teams made up of engineers and labourers are briefed on how to carry out missions without endangering either themselves or the project.”

“The state is giving this project its utmost attention due to its importance to Egypt’s development plans. The fact that it is being executed in already heavily congested areas requires tight safety procedures,” Al-Khenizi stressed.

“We have contracted a private company specialising in marine-rescue operations and including the use of lifeguards and speedboats. They are on site around the clock in case a labourer falls into the river while working. We have also contracted a safety consultancy office specialising in construction work at hazardous heights such as flyovers.”

Choosing the companies to carry out the work involves checking them off against many criteria. “We only select those who have experience in the field. We rule out companies with registered violations and those that present unsuitable certificates. We aim to protect our human resources, as well as the equipment and materials, and to maintain a safe environment for all the labourers,” Al-Khenizi said.

Along with 28 specialists in safety procedures and eight advisors, Al-Khenizi oversees safety at the eastern section of the Rod Al-Farag Axis. “Health and safety is a necessary investment around the world. However, protecting trained human resources and periodical check-ups on workers has an enormous payback,” he said.

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