Most Influential Projects 2022

04 Egypt High-Speed Rail

Mobility | Middle East & North Africa
Egypt High Speed Rail

For accelerating transit of cargo and commuters across Egypt—sustainably

It’s already being called the Suez Canal on rails: an €8.1 billion line connecting 60 Egyptian cities. The mega mobility project wouldn’t just mean more efficient travel for freight, though. It would create the sixth-largest rail network in the world—spanning 41 high-speed trains, 94 regional trains, 41 freight trains, eight depots and freight stations, and 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of rail lines to enable 500 million journeys per year. 

“This project means there will be a fully electrified, state-of-the-art rail network in Egypt for the first time, linking the country like never before,” says Christoph Götz, CEO Turnkey at Siemens Mobility. “It’s a quantum leap.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi seemed to echo that sentiment, noting “the beginning of a new era for the railways system in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East” during the contract-signing ceremony in May. The public-private partnership consortium includes Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels, which will build the bridges and tunnels, as well as map out the specific track layout; local construction firms Orascom Construction and The Arab Contractors; and Siemens, which will provide the trains and technology as well as install the tracks. 

Building up a system to serve 90 percent of Egyptians is itself an enormous feat—one expected to create up to 40,000 local jobs. But size isn’t the only superlative the team is after. To create a truly modernized travel network, project partners are aiming to build a system that’s incredibly fast (trains can go up to 230 kilometers—or 143 miles—per hour), sustainable (creating 70 percent less carbon than similar travel by car or bus), and efficient (from predictive maintenance applications to integrated ticketing systems, tech is infused across the entire project).

For congestion-choked Cairo, the project couldn’t be more urgent. The city’s population has nearly tripled in the last 40 years, and while the government has made efforts to expand into the surrounding deserts (including building a new administrative capital to the east), Egypt’s National Population Council predicts that by 2035, Cairo will rank fifth in the world in terms of population density. That density comes at a heavy economic cost, with congestion dragging down the GDP by an estimated 4 percent.  

Rather than bandage solutions onto the existing, overburdened mobility networks, this project creates “an efficient commuter system for Greater Cairo” from scratch, says Götz. “The high-speed rail connections cut travel times by up to 50 percent for selected journeys, enabling travel across big distances.” 

That means faster travel both for the anticipated 30 million annual commuters—as well as tons of commodities. The network’s sizable freight capacity, strategic reach from ports to inland areas and speed are no doubt what’s fueling the comparisons to the Suez Canal, which currently handles about 10 percent of global maritime commercial traffic.  

The three interconnected train lines that will comprise the new high-speed rail system intentionally link thriving economic hubs, such as Cairo, to developing areas. The first line, 660 kilometers (410 miles) long, will travel from the Red Sea port city of Ain Sokhna on to Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh on the Mediterranean coast, serving commuters in Greater Cairo. The second, stretching farther at 1,100 kilometers (684 miles), will move between Greater Cairo and Abu Simbel near the Sudan border. And finally, a 225-kilometer (139-mile) rail line between Red Sea beach resort towns Hurghada and Port Safaga and Luxor will ease travel for both residents and the millions of annual visitors who explore temples and tombs at the site of the ancient city of Thebes. 

The full network isn’t slated to be completed until 2027, but its influence—on Egypt’s economy, tourism sector and residents—may be felt much sooner. And, beyond Egypt, Siemens’ Götz imagines the high-speed rail “will offer a blueprint for the region on how to install an integrated, sustainable and modern transportation system.”