Office: (44) (0) 5603 676623  |  Independent Communications Consultancy based Westminster, London SW1
Office: (44) (0) 5603 676623  |  Independent Communications Consultancy based Westminster, London SW1

Qalyub crash 21st August 2006 (courtesy of Reuters)Despite the irony of there currently being almost no trains in Egypt [written 1/Sep/2013], one writer (Shima Hafni) ran a piece this week excoriating the safety record of Egyptian Railways over the past 20 years. I thought the article was worth translating and reproducing here as it had a definite anguish and certain details about some crashes that I haven’t seen anywhere else on the internet, for instance in the Wikipedia entries in English or Arabic.

While the tolls of deaths and injuries is appalling, it is worth reflecting how few these actually are over 20 years considering that in normal times 1.3 million people travel on 1400 trains every day around the network. This is down to most employees doing a good job with the equipment and the ‘tried and tested’ nature of ancient (but serviceable) semaphore systems. Far more people are killed on Egyptian roads than on the railways. The original article is here, and this is the translation (with numbers added to aid reading):

“History records that Egyptian Railways are the second oldest railway network apart from the British. However the records also state it has one of the worst history of any railway in the world. Accident followed accident; one disaster followed another; and trains transport their passengers to death. The railways granted time to some, and souls were lost without guilt, but Egyptian officials were still not alarmed and no price was put on the blood of Egyptians that spilled on the tracks. In this file we reveal the bloody history of train accidents over the past 20 years. In that time Egypt has lost more souls in train and road accidents than the country lost during the years of war with Israel.

  1. December 1993. Delta and Cairo trains collided 90 kms from Cairo. 12 killed 60 injured.
  2. March 1994. 2 Delta trains collided: 75 killed. Reports at the time blamed the driver for exceeding the permitted speed, despite dense fog.
  3. February 1995. 11 killed in a car that collided with a train in northern Cairo.
  4. April 1995. 49 killed when a train collided with a bus packed with textile workers at a junction near Qwesna in Manufiya Governorate.
  5. December 1995. 75 killed after 2 trains collided in dense fog near Beni Suef, with one driver blamed for exceeding the speed limit.
  6. February 1997. 11 killed after 2 trains collided north of Aswan due to a signal failure.
  7. 1998. 50 killed and over 80 injured when a train ran through buffers at Kafr el-Dawar near Alexandria and crashed into a crowded market. Reports at the time thought it likely that passengers lying on the train roof messed with the airbrake valves and caused it to fail.
  8. April 1999. 10 killed and over 50 injured when 2 trains collided in northern Egypt
  9. November 1999. 10 killed and 7 injured when a train ran over a group of workers who were trying to help at a car accident in Qalyubiya Governorate.
  10. November 1999. A Cairo – Alexandria train collided with a truck and derailed. 10 killed and 7 injured.
  11. At the end of 2000, a train collided with a minibus at a junction in southern Cairo. 9 killed 2 injured.
  12. The worst accident in Egyptian railway history came on 20 February 2002 with the Upper Egypt Train fire that left at least 350 dead. The train ran for 9kms while a fire blazed within it, forcing passengers to jump out of the windows. No announcement was ever made about the final death toll and and analysts dispute the number of victims. Some say the number of dead exceeded 1000. 11 railway officials were tried for negligence but judged innocent. This was the accident that led to the dismissal of Transport Minister Ibrahim el-Demiri. It also led to the extraordinary statement by then Prime Minister Atif Abid who said, “We thank our Lord that no foreigners died”, a statement that made him hated by the Egyptian people. It was also this accident that brought attention to Dr Mohammed el-Morsi, then a member of Parliament and “the current President of the Republic” [Shima Hafni’s speech marks]. It was his questioning in the Popular Assembly that stirred up public opinion against the government and Mubarak.
  13. 8 March 2002. A train derailed in Giza Governorate and fell into Nile canal near Manashi, injuring 31 passengers. During the investigations, the train driver said the automatic mechanism controlling the train’s speed stopped working as the train left Etay el-Barud in Buheira Governorate. He said he told station officials at Saft el-Laban station about this but was forced to continue the journey as there was no means of repairing the equipment at any of the stations. The driver was charged on 2 counts of negligence.
  14. 28 February 2006. 2 trains collided near Alexandria. 20 people were injured and 4 carriages wrecked. Blame was attributed to the ‘Shbura’ morning fog.
  15. May 2006. A freight train collided with another at el-Shehet village station in Sharqiya Governorate, injuring 45 people.
  16. 21 August 2006. At least 66 people killed and 144 injured when 2 trains collided on the same line. One was heading from Mansura towards Cairo and the other coming from Benha to Cairo, leading to a violent collision. The head of ENR Hanafi Abd el-Qawi was fired and his deputy suspended. 14 railway employees were jailed for a year after being found guilty of negligence.No16: Qalyub crash 21st August 2006 (courtesy of AP)
  17. 4 September 2006. 5 killed including both train drivers and 28 injured when a freight train collided with a passenger train travelling on the same line at Shibeen el-Qanatir in Qalyubiya Governorate.
  18. September 2007. An electrical fault caused a fire in one carriage of an Aswan-Cairo train on the first day of Eid near Aswan. Passengers jumped out of the windows. The carriage was detached from the train after it completely burnt out.
  19. 16 April 2008. 19 freight wagons became detached from a freight train heading from Sohag to Asyut. 2 people were injured at Tahta south level crossing and a boy was killed at Tahta north level crossing. The run-away section finally halted after 6 kms at Naga station while the locomotive and remaining wagons stopped at Tama station.
  20. May 2008. The locomotive of train 955 Cairo-Port Said caught fire before stopping at el-Balah station. The driver uncoupled the burning locomotive but was severely burned.
  21. July 2008. Benha level crossing accident. 2 killed and 2 injured when train 970 Port Said-Sohag collided with a Qalyubiya taxi on the Zaqaziq line level crossing at Benha. The crossing keeper was accused of negligence because he was absent and had left the gate open.
  22. July 2008. At least 58 killed and 60 injured when a train collided with a number of cars at a level crossing near Mersa Matruh. The government blamed a truck driver for driving without brakes.
  23. 18 September 2008. Fire broke out in a Spanish train heading from Cairo to Aswan. 58 tourists were transferred to buses.
  24. 1 October 2008. Train 1902 from Cairo to Aswan overturned, stopping services on the Upper Egypt line.
  25. 4 October 2008. 16 passengers on a train at Etay el-Barud suffered serious head, arm and leg injuries when it was hit by a truck.
  26. 24 October 2009 ‘el-Ayat 2’ train accident. 2 trains collided in the el-Ayat area. 30 killed and many others injured. The first train had broken down and was rear-ended by the second. Transport Minister Mohammed Lutfi Mansour resigned 3 days after the accident.
  27. 9 March 2009. The locomotive of a Giza to 6 October train overturned injuring the driver. There was only one passenger on the train, which derailed after it was hit by a sandstorm
  28. 17 May 2009. The driver of locomotive 3016 left the locomotive at a maintenance workshop without checking its brakes. It ran away driverless for 6kms leaving 2 dead, 10 injured and 5 cars smashed.
  29. 2 July 2009. Train 1906 standing in Misr terminal station suddenly moved and its driver was unable to control the train because the brakes failed. The train collided with the station mosque on the concourse. 3 passengers were injured.
  30. 16 August 2009. A train was derailed in Minya Governorate as it entered el-Fashen station because the airbrake hose was cut. The train collided with the signal box, killing the driver and injuring his assistant.
  31. 28 August 2009. A Cairo-Aswan train derailed as it entered Qena station without injuries.
  32. October 2009. A Cairo-Aswan train collided with a taxi on Farshut level crossing. The crossing was open because the keeper was absent. 5 people were injured including the taxi driver. The crossing keeper was jailed for a year for negligence.
  33. November 2009. An Aswan-Alexandria train collided with a truck at Abnud near Qena. 1 killed and 6 injured.
  34. 3 April 2010. A fire in one of the ‘Spanish train’ carriages of train 1902 at Edfu was caused by its bearing running hot.
  35. 8 April 2010. 2 killed and 9 injured in 3 separate accidents. First, an Alexandria-Mansura train broke down at el-Haganaya and was rear-ended by a Mersa Matruh-Cairo train. 9 people suffered light injuries. The second accident occurred near Damanhur tunnel when a train hit a young man and killed him instantly. The third accident occurred near Nisan village near Abu Hummus when a Cairo-Alexandria train hit and killed an unidentified man.
  36. 30 September 2010. A Zaqaziq-Mansura train collided with a minibus on Sandub level crossing near Mansura. One person was killed and the minibus driver was injured. The crossing keeper was jailed because he had not locked the crossing before the accident.
  37. July 2011. The Cairo-Aswan ‘Spanish train‘ collided with a truck as it crossed el-Asiret level crossing near Sohag. The truck driver was killed and the crossing keeper was jailed.
  38. August 2011. A Cairo-Aswan train collided with a pick-up truck just before Baba station near Beni Suef. The impact smashed the truck in two and killed the driver while the train derailed.
  39. 21 October 2011. The Aswan-Cairo stopping train collided with a vehicle between Badrasheen and Maraziq stations in Giza Governorate, causing the locomotive to derail. No-one was injured.
  40. July 2012. Two trains collided near Badrasheen after passengers from a Cairo-Asyut train placed obstructions on the line in front of a Cairo-Sohag train at Hawamdiya station. They were protesting about their train being shunted. 3 carriages overturned and 4 people were injured.
  41. 21 August 2011. There was a limited fire due to an electrical fault in the air-conditioning of one carriage of a Cairo-Aswan train near Nag’a Hammadi. There were no casualties.
  42. October 2012. A big smash on points as the train passed at high speed resulted in the death of 6 people.
  43. November 2012. Two train collided on a single line. One was heading from Cairo to Fayoum and the other from Wasta to Fayoum. At the time all the semaphore signals and alternatives controlling movement on the Fayoum line were out of action. The signal box at el-Nasiriya village gave the right of way to the Cairo train while the signal box at Sila village gave it to the Wasta train. 3 people died including the driver of the Wasta train, and 46 others were injured.
  44. 17 November 2012. Train 165 Asyut-Cairo collided with a bus from the private el-Zahri Institute as it transported students to the institute. 35 pupils were killed, plus the bus driver and a female teacher, and 17 others were injured. [NB: The bus was on a level crossing at Manfalut and the equipment was judged to have failed. Most of the victims were children under 12 and this tragedy caused a national outcry].
  45. 15 January 2013. 19 people died and over 117 were injured in the early hours of Tuesday morning when the last carriage of a train of military recruits derailed at Abu Rab’a level crossing near Badrasheen in Giza Governorate.

She concludes, “One question remains: is a train ticket an exit visa from the world? Are we waiting for yet another disaster before the officials stir themselves?”

If you have any stories about railways or the Middle East in general that you would like help to write or publish, please get in touch.


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