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Egypt plans railway lines extending to Libya, Sudan

CAIRO – Egypt’s transport minister Sunday announced proposals to construct a railway line to reach the Sudanese city of Wadi Halfa, and to extend a line in the north to Libya’s Benghazi.

The announcement came as part of Egyptian government efforts to overhaul the country’s transport system, including an ailing railway network with a poor safety record.

The government decided on “a number rail transport projects that could be carried out in cooperation with investors,” Transport Minister Kamel al-Wazir told a news conference in Cairo.

They include “building an Aswan-Toshka railway line that will extend to the city of Wadi Halfa in Sudan,” he said, referring to locations in Egypt’s south and a city just across the border.

He also said there were plans to extend the Marsa Matrouh-Salloum line, in Egypt’s northwest, to reach the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Neighbouring Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has been looking to build cross-border railway lines with neighbouring countries.

Its rail network has been beset by a spate of accidents in recent years that were often blamed on decades of poor maintenance, negligence and a lack of funds.

In March, over a dozen people were injured when two passenger trains collided in the capital Cairo, triggering a brief suspension in nationwide rail services.

Sisi tapped Wazir for the post of transport minister after a train crash at Cairo’s central station in February last year killed 22 people.

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