Rail Chief in Egypt given the sack after second fatal crash in as many months

Cairo, April 21 2021: In a deadly train crash along the Nile delta in Egypt on Sunday, 23 people have been confirmed dead and 139 have been injured according to sources at Egypt’s public prosecution. The authority has ordered the arrest of 23 people accused of involvement in the accident. The prosecution service cited negligence and disregard for regulations as the cause of the accident. During the accident, several rail carriages came off the tracks on Sunday in a farming town near the capital.

Last month in a train crash in southern Egypt, about 20 people died and 200 were injured. In a separate incident earlier this month, 15 people were injured when two train carriages derailed near Minya al-Qamh, north of Cairo. This string of deadly disasters has led to the sacking of the Chief of Railways, Ashraf Raslan.

The transport minister, Kamel el-Wazir’s has ordered a shuffle of some of the top officials in Egypt’s embattled railways authority following an uproar in the Arab world’s most populous country over mismanagement of dilapidated train lines.

In a statement by the ministry to the press, the minister said the goal of the change was not to replace leadership but to conduct a complete overhaul of the railway network where changes are underway to provide better services to commuters. The aim is to up-grade this essential public service that is used by millions of passengers yearly.

While he calls for sector wide reforms to refurbish the dilapidated infrastructure, there have been calls on social media for the minister himself to step down. The recent spate of fatal train accidents in Egypt like many before them are mostly blamed on poor infrastructure and maintenance.

A former general, Wazir, was named transport minister after a 2019 train collision that was blamed on human error. After the accident last month he said there was a problem because of the errors associated with the human element and that complete automation by 2024 would solve most of the problems.

Meanwhile, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, the President has vowed to hold to account those responsible for the spate of repeated fatal incidents on Egypt’s railways in the recent past, the deadliest of which happened in 2002 when a fire ripped through a crowded train south of Cairo, killing 373 people.

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