Cairo- Asharq Al Awsat interviews E.J Miller, the president of Intercontinental Commerce Corporation (ICC) that is to oversee a new project to establish a monorail system in Egypt. The project will serve daily commuters especially low-income workers who travel between the areas of Cairo, Giza and 6 October City. According to our report, ICC has caught the interest of US Ex-Im Bank to provide support for over $2 Billion US Dollars (USD) for the Monorail rolling stock. Guggenheim’s Private Investment and Banking Group with assets of over $89 Billion was designated by ICC to act as a financial advisor and planner. IBM will provide system integrations and Arab Contractors will provide civil engineering and construction services for the Monorail track and cement works. Major monorail manufacturers are putting in proposals to provide rolling stock using the highest technology including Siemens, Hitachi, Frazer-Nash, and Bombardier. Ninety percent of contractors will be Egyptian, including 5000 Egyptian workers to be employed during the five year construction period. 2000 Egyptian workers will be employed as technicians and system operators and will receive training in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
ICC has received an exclusive mandate from the Government of Egypt to develop the Cairo Area Transit System project (CATS) in the Cairo and Giza governorates, currently being reviewed by the Egyptian government. “CATS” will be a Private-Public Partnership (PPP) between CATS and the Egyptian Railways Authority (ERA) at no cost to the Egyptian government. ICC has already completed the feasibility study, concept design, and research into finance and commuter patterns which have been presented to the Government of Egypt with a set plan to implement the project.
In the first phase, the new hi-tech monorail will travel on an elevated beam without interfering with surface traffic, according to Miller. He stated that, “Monorails are safer, quieter, and better for Cairo’s environment.” The CATS project comprises the building, design, ownership and operation of the Monorail Transit System starting at the intersection of Port Said Road and Rasmis Street, travelling southwest on Port Said Road across the northern tip of Al Manial Island, down Al Manial Street, across the Nile on the Roda Street bridge and then proceeding down Al Haram Street to the Pyramids area. A spur will then attach to the main trunk line and proceed north onto Cairo Alexandria Road to loop at the new Museum Hotel. The main trunk line will proceed on to 6 October. The Transit System will transport 1.25 million commuters daily from the Cairo and Giza governorates over approximately 52km and passing through 42 stations. The project also includes the development of hotels to compliment the Grand Egyptian Museum and several shopping centers along the route. The system will also connect the central Cairo area directly to the Pyramids where the two hotels are to be built. The monorail will be stationed inside the main lobbies of both hotels where tourists who visit the Pyramids will be able to rest comfortably after visiting the Pyramids and will be able to return to their hotels in Cairo within 15-20 minutes, avoiding heavy traffic which currently hinders tourism substantially. Miller stated that he expects at least one million tourists to use the monorail facilities to visit the Pyramids area and return annually. One of the hotels will be next to the Grand Egyptian Museum where visitors will have direct access to the museum avoiding stressful means of transport that may take hours to reach the Pyramids and return.
The interview with E.J Miller, president of the Intercontinental Commerce Corporation proceeded as follows:
Q: Why did you decide to take on this project in Cairo?
A: Cairo has one of the most difficult transport systems in the world. I was invited by the Minister of Transport to study the possibilities of providing transport systems without subsidies from the government and public funds.
Q: What is the current status of the project?
A: We are conducting comprehensive technical, economical, and commutership studies and based on mandates from the government, I have provided the government with results of the studies together with how funding and investments for $3.2 million USD will be provided, for review by the office of the Prime Minister and to commence implementation.
Q: How will low-income workers in the 6 October area benefit?
A: Every day, hundreds of thousands of low income workers commute from Cairo to 6 October City and back spending 4 hours of their productive time in heavy traffic everyday. The monorail system will reduce travel time to 20 minutes each way giving workers an additional 3 hours to produce more income or spend with their families.
Q: What is the cost of this project for the government of Egypt?
A: At present, the Egyptian government is subsidizing up to 80% of its cost of its underground metro transport, which is a heavy burden on the annual budget of the government. Our monorail project is based on economic factors as a private investment from which the government will receive 20% of the projects shares without any investments whatsoever.
Q: How many new jobs will be created for Egyptians?
A: During the construction period, we expect to employ up to 5000 Egyptian workers and after completion and during operation, we will have at least 1000 permanent Egyptian employees. In addition, by creating thousands of new side businesses connected to the monorail operation including shopping centers, station operators, and other related facilities that are needed to support the system, we expect employment opportunities for several thousands more.
Q: Besides the monorail system, what other facilities are expected to be constructed within the project?
A: In stage one, the project will involve the establishment of at least 42 stations, and 2 hotels, two major shopping centers, and a major complex in 6 October City which will include a test track for the monorail assembly, repair and assembly depot, and one thousand new housing units for low income workers.
Q: Who will provide the rolling stock and monorail systems?
A: This is a large and complex project and has to be built within the limits of time and therefore we will consider several suppliers of monorail rolling stock which will include Siemens, Hitachi, Bombardier, Frazer-Nash and Alstom who have been interviewed and are pre-qualified to undertake such a project.
Q: Has any similar monorail project been constructed in the region as of yet?
A: No, not only has their not been a monorail system constructed in the Middle East and the Arab world, but also this monorail system in Cairo will be the largest in the world.