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Egypt is a speeding train about to crash

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Wednesday's train crash at Cairo's main railway station was more than a horrible accident. It was an avoidable tragedy.

Although a fight between train conductors may have been the immediate cause of the crash and fiery explosion, the primary cause is that Egypt's rail system has become a relic of premodernity.

According to Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the country suffered more than 12,000 train accidents between 2006 and 2016 - an annual average of 1,100.

For many years, experts have pointed out the absolute necessity for government spending on transportation, including the railway system, which has long suffered from decrepitude and underfunding. The current administration of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has largely ignored these calls.

In 2017, el-Sisi berated Transportation Minister Hisham Arafat in a televised discussion after he suggested that significant funds should be allocated to rebuild the railway system, particularly in Upper Egypt. He argued that Egypt's government would be better off putting 10 billion Egyptian pounds ($570m) in the bank and earning 10 percent annual interest than spending the money to modernise Egyptian railways.

At the time, el-Sisi's remarks were received critically by Egyptians, many of whom depend on the railways for daily commutes. On average, Egypt's 9,570km-long train network transports some 1.4 million passengers every........

© Al Jazeera