Egypt seeks $1.5 bln to revamp railways after crash
By Abdel Sattar Hatita
CAIRO, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Egypt, reeling from its worst train disaster in four years, scrambled on Wednesday to find $1.5 billion to overhaul its antiquated rail network.
Fifty eight people were killed and scores injured on Monday when two commuter trains collided in the Nile Delta town of Qalyoub. Egypt's state news agency said the accident happened after one of the drivers apparently failed to heed a signal.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif had ordered Transport Minister Mohamed Lutfi Mansour to report preliminary findings on the crash by Wednesday. But Mansour gave no hint of the cause in an address to a parliamentary committee convened for the accident.
A cabinet spokesman said the preliminary results were now expected to be released later in the evening or on Thursday.
Mansour told the committee he would dip into proceeds from the $2.9 billion sale of Egypt's third mobile phone license to help pay for the rail revamp.
He said 5 billion Egyptian pounds ($871 million) would be drawn from the mobile proceeds, and the government would borrow the remainder of the total $1.5 billion that the overhaul is expected to cost.
The money will pay to upgrade equipment, improve maintenance and revamp old engines or buy new ones, Mansour said. It would also go toward installing automated crossings and linking the rail networks by computer.
Mansour said he had initially submitted to parliament in June a plan for upgrading the railways, but it had not been carried out.
In a statement, the transport ministry said Mansour had previously warned of potential danger on the railways.
The train crash in the town of Qalyoub, which prompted Mansour to fire the head of the state railway authority, was Egypt's worst rail accident since 2002, when a fire ripped through a crowded passenger train, killing about 360 people.
Since Monday's crash, a string of accidents have hit Egypt's transport industry. Eleven Israeli Arab tourists were killed on Tuesday when their tour bus flipped on a dangerous curve in the Sinai Peninsula. Earlier that day, a sleeper train collided with a tractor south of Cairo, injuring two people.
Security sources said on Wednesday a further 11 Egyptians were killed overnight and nine injured when a bus in a wedding convoy flipped into a waterway near the southern city of Aswan.