“Prices are all up, salaries are not increasing, the situation is really not affordable. In addition to this, officials are saying that there is further increases expected by the beginning of the coming year for different products. I can’t imagine a solution,” said Nehal El-Saeed, a 27 year old government employee said.
El-Saeed is one of millions who use the metro on a daily basis to head to their work or run errands. The metro has always been the most preferred transportation method for commuters of different classes in the country due to its cheap ticket price, as it remained costing one pound for over ten years. There are other means of public transportation with reasonable prices, but the metro is also preferable to large number of citizens for being the fastest transportation available in Cairo.
During the past few days, speculation circulated in media reports regarding the expected rise of the standard metro ticket price to EGP 4 at the end of the current year. The ticket price had already been increased to EGP 2 on 23 March, four months after the pound flotation that came as part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s terms to provide a loan of EGP 12bn meant to aid Egypt’s economic reform.
Officials in the Cairo Metro Company and the Ministry of Transportation were quoted in local media reports responding to these speculations, saying that there will be an increase next year in ticket prices, but that it will not happen before completing the installation of electronic gates in stations of the first and second lines of the subway.
The statements denied that prices will rise at the end of the year, but confirmed that there is an expected raise due to the metro’s expansion. When the ticket price was first raised in March, officials pledged that the raise will assist in improving metro services, but those promises have failed to materialise on the ground.
In July, the Minister of Transportation said that the price of metro tickets in Cairo would increase by 100 percent by 2018, reaching EGP 4, adding that pricing for trips will range between EGP 2 and EGP 4 by the last quarter of 2018, depending on the trip’s distance. The minister added that ticket prices will increase after the completion of projects worth EGP 45 billion. He also clarified that the recent increase was not part of price hikes of fuel costs, but for upgrading the metro.
Prices of public transportation tickets as well as taxi rides have spiked. In late June, the government increased the price of fuel, as the price of a litre of 92 octane gasoline rose to EGP 5 from EGP 3.5, 80 octane gasoline and diesel fuel both increased from EGP 2.35 to EGP 3.65, and 95 octane gasoline increased from EGP 6.25 to EGP 6.6. This was the second increase in fuel prices in less than a year, as the government also raised fuel prices in November.
Mohamed Abdullah, deputy of parliament’s transportation committee, will hold a meeting in the next week to discuss a bill to form an authority to organise mass transfer, saying they would summon the minister of transport to discuss the planned price increases and their timeline.
“The minister has already taken a decision to increase the price of the subway ticket in recent months, and there was talk about modification, and did not happen and worsened,” the member said.
Among the masses that uses the metro train on a daily basis are students and employees receiving low salaries. The minimum wage in Egypt is EGP 1,200 and there have been no indicators on it increasing during the upcoming period, however, a number of parliament members are attempting to raise the issue for discussions.
“I don’t use taxis, or any such services, simply because I don’t receive an enormous salary. Give me a proper salary, and I will arrange my needs,” a 43 year old government employee told Daily News Egypt, on condition of anonymity.
He went on to say that he receives EGP 1,500, saying that his salary exceeds the minimum wage by only EGP 300. The employee complained that his life requirements will never allow him to spend EGP 240 per month just for his transportation to work.
Throughout all hours of the day, one can find crowds of passengers standing and sitting inside each metro train, waiting to reach their destination. Once a train doors open, another crowd charges into it, pushing each other, in order to not miss the ride, without regard for injury risk.
Ticket prices are not the only thing that concern metro commuters, but basic quality of services has long been a demand.
“Once I set my legs on platform to catch a train, my mind only thinks of finding a less crowded train. The pushing I face to enter the train really bothers me. Why, every time I take a train, should I be harassed by each and every person? This is inhumane. We need a system to organise this,” El-Saeed said, when asked about her evaluation of metro services.
Safety precautions, regulations on overcrowding, and improvement of poorly maintained stations, have long been called for by metro commuters. In a previous televised interview, Head of Cairo Metro Company Khaled Sabra said that the metro works for 24 hours and receives 1.3 billion passengers per year. Revenues of the metro are estimated at over EGP 3m per day, which can greatly assist in upgrading its services.
“I usually use the subway in my daily rides and I tolerated the latest surge because for me, it wasn’t really significant. I, however, believe that it imposed some sort of financial pressure on subway commuters. While I got used to the new prices, I don’t think that another surge would be good. Given the current high prices, I can barely go through the month without facing financial problems,” said Toqaa Ezz El-Din, a 24 year old mass communications graduate.
She added, “also, I pay a small amount of money in return for a not-so-fancy service. I am not willing to pay an extra penny on the subway because it is public transportation and the reason why I choose it is because it is affordable. Let alone the repercussions of these surges on people with limited resources who have no other way to move around.”
Economists have previously suggested plans to expand metro revenues without raising ticket prices, such as utilising the marketing aspect well, activating ads professionally to make the most of advertisements placed on the ticket, entry and exit gates, escalators, and stairways. Previously, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the state seeks confronting the financing issue of the metro’s budget as it is struggling, with a EGP 500 million debt.
A twenty six year old journalist, who uses the metro on a daily basis, said that he expects that new increases will reduce the crowding on the metro as many commuters will stop using it, but this raises concerns on what they will do instead.
“I can pay the expected rise, but still I need to make sure that the metro service will afford me services worth increases,” the journalist said.
He explained that a major issue with the metro is that people are always facing the possibility of being exposed to risk, whether during the scramble to enter the metro, in cases when trains go off track, or when sometimes doors open when moving. He further added that there are not even enough officers around the trains to be in service if any problem occurred.
Price hikes outraged citizens in Egypt and influenced their financial status, forcing them to cut their expenses, sell properties, and take out loans to be able to sustain themselves. Since the beginning of the year, the inflation of prices increased greatly amid stagnant incomes, but slightly dropped in the past few months. The Central Agency for Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) stated on 9 November that Egypt’s annual inflation dropped in October to 31.8 percent, compared to 32.9 percent in September.
The journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and others believed that the price increase could make sense only if service improves for all passengers. However, the ticket is expected to increase in price, frustrating people and increasing burdens on their lives. Several people assured that the only thing that would make them bear the situation is being offered proper and safe service, though the implementation of such improvements still remains vague.