Egypt to invest billions in rail infrastructure

Egypt’s minister of transport says the country is targeting up to €14.4 billion worth of investment in rail and metro projects

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Egypt’s minister of transport has said the country is targeting up to €14.4billion (Dh55.85bn) worth of investment in new rail and metro projects.

Speaking at Middle East Rail conference on Tuesday, Hesham Arafat said the bulk of the investment being sought is for three high-speed rail lines running from Luxor to Cairo, Alexandria to Cairo and from Luxor to Hurghada, which will have a combined cost of €13bn.

“These three lines are proposed for promoting tourist activity that is expected to reach more than 30 million tourists per year by 2025,” Mr Arafat said.

The biggest of these is the Cairo to Luxor line – a €6bn, 700-kilometre line that will take about five years to build. Mr Arafat said studies indicate investors would earn an internal rate of return of about 9 per cent on the project, which is expected to carry about 3.4 million passengers per year.

“You can finance it using any model, like BOT [build, operate, transfer] or direct finance,” he said.

The €4bn Luxor to Hurghada line will be 300km, carry 1.5 million passengers and will offer returns of 10 per cent, according to the ministry. It will take four years to build.

The Alexandria to Cairo line has an estimated cost of €3bn and will be 210km long, carrying up to 2.3 million passengers a year. It is expected to take three years to build and offer returns of 11 per cent over its lifespan.

Other projects for which it is seeking backing include a €934m, 34km underground line in Cairo from Imbaba to the airport, a €275m super tram linking satellite cities in New Cairo to the underground network, an €82m passenger and freight line from Mansoura to Damietta and an €85m freight line connecting Egypt’s biggest phosphate mine at Abu Tartur to Safaga port.

The ministry is also seeking a partner to operate an 8,725 square metre shopping mall connected to a railway station at Alexandria port aimed at tourists.

The minister said that Egypt is a “pro-business” country offering a robust investment regime, with a new investment law due to be introduced later this month that will allow for 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies and protection against expropriation of profits or compulsory pricing.

Meanwhile, Oman Rail has said that it may seek public-private partners with interests in mining to help develop its first rail line.

The 400km line will connect Ash Shuwaymiyah in the south to Duqm port with a view to transporting gypsum from newly created mines.

Oman Rail’s general manager of projects, Nathan Wiles, said that the creation of a new mining industry was “one of the key pillars of diversification” for the Omani government. The public authority for mining has set up an investment and licensing arm, mineral development of Oman, which is undertaking studies to gauge the reserve levels and the quality of gypsum in the area, with a view to feeding this into a public-private partnership model to attract investors.

Oman Rail has said that it expects to appoint three consultants within the next month that it will use to design the line and associated port facilities.

Mr Wiles said the northern section of the line that will connect with UAE’s Etihad Rail is ready to go as soon as other GCC countries commit to the project. Oman Rail chose a preferred bidder to deliver this section back in 2015 but has had to postpone the project’s start.

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