Railway blockages cost govt LE726 million since uprising

Protests and labor strikes that have blocked railways over the last 18 months have cost the state more than LE726 million, said Hany Hegab, head of the government-run Egyptian National Railways, in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm published Sunday. Close to 5,000 trains have been halted over the past year and a half, affecting 1.8 million passengers.

Hegab told Al-Masry Al-Youm that this wave of blockages following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak is an all-time record since the establishment of the railways authority in 1854.

Since the fall of Mubarak, protesters have blocked the railways as a means of forcing the authorities to comply with their demands, Hegab claimed, adding that the nation's railroads have seen more than 870 protests and strikes since 25 January 2011. Reasons range from protesting against gas shortages to government appointments. The demonstrations have continued into 2012 as railway workers have held sit-ins on the tracks to protest low wages and poor working conditions. 

Most recently, four trains from Luxor that were bound for Cairo were delayed on Sunday after people in Luxor blocked railroads to protest the killing of a citizen while he was crossing the train tracks.

Officials at the Luxor train station told Egypt Independent that blockages caused delays in four trains that were heading to Cairo. This comes a few days after trains experienced six hour delays last Wednesday after residents of Huwamdiya blocked the railroads to protest the absence of clean water.

Hegab said that incidents such of these have cost 104,000 working hours on the part of the railway workers.

The railway authority estimates that 500 million passengers use railroads annually, especially in Upper Egypt, which relies heavily on the railways as the main means of travel to Cairo. According to Hegab, 70 percent of the train disruptions have occured in Upper Egypt.

Hegab told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the Egyptian National Railways needs urgent help from state agencies to save the railway lines and enforce a law criminalizing blocking the railroads.

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