Egypt's transport minister resigns after deadly Cairo train crash

Egypt has suffered a number of high profile train crashes in recent years due to the state of the country’s railway network.
Wednesday 27/02/2019
Firefighters and rescue workers stand on the platform next to a burnt out wagons on the railway tracks after a fire caused deaths and injuries at the main train station in Cairo, on February 27, 2019. (DPA)
Firefighters and rescue workers stand on the platform next to a burnt out wagons on the railway tracks after a fire caused deaths and injuries at the main train station in Cairo, on February 27, 2019. (DPA)

LONDON - Egypt's transport minister has resigned after a deadly train crash in Cairo's main station, the latest in a series of fatal accidents involving the country's railway system. 

"Transport Minister Hisham Arafat submitted his resignation ... and the prime minister accepted," the cabinet said in a statement.

At least 25 people were killed and 50 others injured when a train travelling from Alexandria to the capital crashed at Cairo’s Ramses Railway station on Wednesday morning.

The train was reportedly travelling at full speed when it hit a concrete buffer at the end of the track and exploded. Many feared that the death toll could rise significantly in the coming hours and days.

"I was standing on the platform and I saw the train speed into the barrier," witness Mina Ghaly told Reuters news agency.

"Everyone started running but a lot of people died after the locomotive exploded,” she added.

In televised comments from the site of the crash, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said that the reason behind the crash remains unknown, although Egypt has suffered a number of high profile train crashes in recent years due to the state of the country’s railway network.

"Everyone has to know that the life of every Egyptian is valuable to me and to the Egyptian state and we will not rest until we hold accountable anyone found to be neglectful in their job," the prime minister said in televised comments.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered an immediate investigation into the crash, with Egypt’s prosecutor-general reportedly investigating CCTV footage and interviewing witnesses to determine the circumstances surrounding the collision.

Last July, Egypt’s Ministry of Transport confirmed that it was allocating 55 billion Egyptian pounds ($3.14 billion) to overhaul and reform Egypt’s flagging railway infrastructure.

It is not believed that the Cairo – Alexandria line has been overhauled yet.

The last deadly incident involving Egypt’s railway system occurred in August 2017, when two passenger trains collided in the north of the country, killing 41 people and injuring more than 120.

The accident was ascribed to “human error,” and Cairo sought to put in place a more stringent automotive check system to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Last year, Railway Authority Chairman Sayed Salem was sacked after a number of train derailments. One such incident -- due to a signalling error on a train traveling from Cairo to Aswan -- resulted in 55 injuries. Earlier that year, at least 12 people were killed when a freight train collided with a passenger train in the northern province of Behaira.