Egypt plans shares sale to fund rail project



CAIRO: The Egyptian government is considering selling shares to the public to help finance a high-speed passenger rail project extending up the Nile valley.

The railway would run from Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast to Cairo and then to the tourist centre of Luxor in the far south, a distance of 800km, Transport Minister Ibrahim El Demiri told financial daily Al Mal.

A further rail line would later run to tourist towns on the Red Sea in a project that would eventually cost a total of 70 billion Egyptian pounds ($10bn).

El Demiri gave no timeframe for the project, which could eventually boost a tourist sector battered by nearly three years of unrest, with the toppling of Hosni Mubarak after almost 30 years in power and the removal of Islamist Mohamed Mursi.

The government is looking at labour-intensive projects that would create jobs after the turmoil that has pushed many Egyptians deeper into poverty.

Egypt is seeking budgetary support from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE in addition to the $12bn pledged since Mursi was deposed by the army on July 3 following nationwide protests a year after he was elected.

This week the government said it was increasing an economic stimulus package for the financial year to June 2014 to 29.6bn Egyptian pounds ($4.3bn) from the initial 22.3bn pounds announced in August. Officials have said that another stimulus package could be announced early next year.

Some of the new cash will be directed to building railways, roads, bridges as well as to an extension of the Cairo metro and other improvements to the city’s transport network.

Egypt has been mooting a high-speed rail project to link Alexandria with Cairo since at least 2009.

The train between Egypt’s two biggest cities currently takes about two hours. More info