Sunday, March 17, 2019

Will Kamel Al-Wazir break the curse of Egypt’s Railways ? We will shall see

Earlier Monday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced that Lieutenant general Kamel Al-Wazir, the head of the Egyptian army’s Engineering Authority was appointed as the new transportation minister and within a couple of hours on the same day, the parliament declared its approval for his appointment.

The appointment of Al-Wazir comes after less than two weeks of Hisham Arafat’s resignation as the minister of transportation following the deadly crash of Ramses train station in Cairo.

At least 22 people were killed in that train collision while over 40 people were injured.

Kamel Al-Wazir has been always tipped to be the upcoming prime minister of Egypt due to his accomplishments in the Engineering Authority since he was appointed its head in December 2015.
Kamel Al-Wazir's first day as a civilian minister in the ministry of
transportation in Cairo last week 
His achievements according to the media that spoke highly about him were the highway networks, the so-called New Suez Canal, El-Galala hell development project in Ain Sokhana and the new Rod El-Farag axis.

In nutshell, all the projects involving the Engineering Authority currently in the country “and they are many currently” are successful because of Kamel Al-Wazir, who was being praised by Sisi himself in almost in all their public meetings.
Al-Wazir was graduated as an officer engineer from the Military Technical College in 1980.
His major was in construction.

Technically speaking, Al-Wazir is a civilian man now.

After the train locomotive collision in Ramses station and the resignation of Arafat, many pro-regime supporters demanded and even spread rumors that Al-Wazir became the minister of transportation and that his military experience would help in saving the deteriorating status of the Egyptian railways.

Now the million dollars question is here: Will Kamel Al-Wazir break the curse of Egypt’s Railways? Can he survive the Egyptian Railways accidents and crashes record?

In case you do not know at least the last 6 ministers of transportation were either resigned and dismissed because of disasters and accidents related to railways.

From 2004 till 2017 when Hisham Arafat was appointed, we had had about 13 ministers who mostly ended their careers because of train disasters.

We got at least one thousand-related accident to railways, not so big or catastrophic annually in the last 5 years for example according to the official numbers of Egypt's Central Agence for Public Mobilization and Statistics "CAPMAS"

President Sisi announced that nearly LE 4 trillion were allocated to projects to improve the transportation sector especially railways.
Since the days of Mubarak, I have always heard about big numbers pumped into railways but there had been no change.

Sisi also hinted out that neglected public sectors employees and workers who were on drugs would be fired in reference to the fact that one of the suspects arrested in the deadly Ramses station was found to have traces of drugs in his body when he was tested for substance.

The semi-official version of the cause of the deadly crash now is that the locomotive driver was on drugs with no mention what so ever about the maintenance of that locomotive and its brakes.

Personally, I hope that the railways in Egypt to be saved for real. It is still the safest and most affordable choice for most Egyptians.

Some say privatization will do the trick and actually a new law is passed allow private companies to establish and manage railways but I believe it will take huge investments and foreign companies to do this.

Only Qalaa holding had an experience with railways management that did not continue in some African country if I remember correctly.

Back to Kamel Al-Wazir, I believe that he is facing the biggest test of his career in that position. He is always tipped to become a prime minister.

Time will tell if he will break his curse or there is no difference between a civilian minister or a minister that comes from the military when it comes to Egypt’s railways' curse.


  1. There is a difference between construction experience and operation experience. Construction is to erect something on empty piece of land according to plans and specifications. Operation has to deal with constrains of existing equipment, procedures, culture and manpower.

    Train accidents are not resulting from curse. Lousy operation infested with errors yields a higher probability of accidents. Efficient train systems have a lower probability. There must be measures of quality not only a lucky absence of tragedies. Accidents will not vanish by a military order yet by measured improved quality of service.

  2. I strongly doubt the figures on the graph. Despite 2001 and 2012 being post revolution there is nothing that can convince me that in those years accidents were only 20% of what they are now.
    Bit like the road fatalities statistics released a few months ago where deaths have suddenly dropped 25% on one year. Highly unlikely.

    1. It turned out that the railways authorities suspended the service several times in 2011 and 2012 , the thing that led to this sharp decline in train accidents.


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