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Egypt parliamentary committee approves amendment allowing sale of railway land

Fire fighters and onlookers gather at the scene of a fiery train crash at the Egyptian capital Cairo's main railway station on February 27, 2019. - The crash killed at least 20 people, Egyptian security and medical sources said. The accident, which sparked a major blaze at the Ramses station, also injured 40 others, the sources said. [STRINGER / AFP/Getty Images]
Fire fighters and onlookers gather at the scene of a train crash in Egypt on 27 February 2019 [STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images]

The Committee on Transport and Communications in the Egyptian parliament finally approved, on Monday, a government amendment to the law establishing the National Railway Authority of Egypt, allowing it to dispose of its assets and lands, including the sale, rent and investment to develop and increase the resources of the Authority.

The law exempts the land occupied by the armed forces. The amendment aims at establishing the National Authority for Railways of Egypt as joint-stock companies to offer the property and assets of the Authority for sale, rent and investment, after coordinating with the national security authorities. The gains resulting from such exploitation shall be included in the revenues of the Authority, with the right to dispose of these lands and assets in all aspects in light of the approval of the Council of Ministers and upon the proposal of the Minister of Transport and Communications.

The amendment exempted the Authority’s public-benefit property from sale, namely Railway installations and lines, its operating buildings and its surrounding that does not exceed six meters as well as barriers that shall not exceed one hundred meters, as public property owned by the State may not be disposed of or seized, or owned, or used to gain any right.

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Kamel Al-Wazir, Minister of Transport and Communications, told the committee that the government’s amendment to the law establishing the authority came after the approval of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi as part of the government’s policy to exploit state assets as a way to raise the necessary financial resources for development. He added that “the government will not increase the prices of train tickets until the improvement of the services provided to citizens and the completion of development projects at the railway facility.”

The minister stressed President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s personal interest in the development of the railway system, and the introduction of new railway wagons to service during the upcoming period,” he said. The minister added that “the decision to increase the price of train tickets will follow the process of improving the service, and will be taken in coordination with the Committee on Transport and Communications in the Parliament.”  He explained: “Once we improve services we will come here and ask you whether to increase prices or not even though the increase will only cover 50% of the cost of service, because in some train lines the state bears five times as much as the price of the ticket,” he clarified.

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