This is an atmospheric report from almasry alyoum detailing the situation at Cairo Central early this morning, as the first train in 68 days prepared to depart, and then on board Train 903 to Alexandria. (Initial train times here). There is a short interesting video here and I’ve translated the first half of the report (around the station) below it:
Cairo station opened its doors on the stroke of 5am Tuesday as the curfew ended, following a closure lasting 68 days. Workers began to queue in station square and enter the station after the wooden barricades that have shuttered the station for 3 months were removed. All was in preparation for the departure of (Spanish) train 903 heading for Alexandria, calling at Benha, Qwesna, Birket el-Sab’a, Tanta, Kafr el-Zayat, Etay el-Barud, Damanhur, Sidi Gaber and Alexandria Misr. This was the first train to depart since services were halted on 14th August, the day the Rabiat el-Adawiya protests were broken up.
A few passengers showed up at the ticket counter and police were deployed widely alongside railway security guards. New electronic gates were the most obvious new feature. Kiosks, porters and cleaners resumed their work. Security was tight, and stickers reading ‘Departure Station Cairo. Greetings from Cairo Station Police’ were applied to all luggage screened at the x-ray gates. Every passenger is checked as they enter the station. Police were in evidence on the platforms and in carriages, and even checked the carriages with police dogs before passenger boarded.
Ali Darwish, Cairo station’s ticket office manager, has been sitting in his chair at the ticket office and monitoring the queues since yesterday. He said, “We started work today at 6am. People were queuing yesterday immediately after the announcement was made that trains were resuming to Lower Egypt. But there are only 4, a lot fewer than normal, so demand has been below average, especially for the first train. It’s not busy because a lot of people didn’t hear the news, and the times have changed because of the curfew, and also because the first train is a Spanish instead of a French train.”
The ticket office was indeed quiet for ticket reservations, mainly because electronic reservations have not resumed. ENR is issuing tickets by hand as an experiment. Darwish said, “Today is a test day, so we decided to use hand tickets instead of electronic ones.” Some passengers at the ticket counter were asking about times for Upper Egypt services and were being told, “We don’t know when they’re returning. Only the Lower Egypt lines are running”.
The report continues at length with interviews with the conductor, a steward and some of the passengers on train 903, giving some insights into how the 3-month shut-down of train services has affected staff and public alike.
Appeals for Sadat Metro station to be re-opened
A report from al-Bawab today says Sadat Metro station has been shut since 14th August. I don’t think that is true, or is it? It might have been shut since Sunday, but I’m sure I’ve read reports in recent weeks about operations at Sadat, which sits below Tahrir Square at the intersection of Lines 1 & 2. Could someone let me know?
Many people are appealing to the Governor of Cairo, Transport Minister and Metro chairman to reopen Sadat Metro station (underneath Tahrir Square) before Eid el-Adha and preferably as soon as possible. It has been shut since the events that followed the military clearing the Muslim Brotherhood’s protests in Cairo in August. Travellers stressed Sadat station was vital and its closure was causing massive congestion at nearby Shuhuda station, with instances of people fainting and suffocating.