The Transportation Ministry has released details of a study showing that ticket prices for the Cairo metro system are very heavily subsidized, hinting at a need to increase the price of tickets from the current flat rate of LE 1.
The new information comes in the context of ongoing talks between the Transport Ministry and the Egyptian Co. for Metro Management and Operation (ECMMO) over raising ticket prices for Cairo's three-line metro network to at least LE2 per ticket.
According to the study, tickets are approximately 96 percent subsidized by the government, a figure predicted to reach 97 percent with the LE130 billion construction of the third line. The unsubsidized price of a ticket should be LE25, the study stated, which currently incurs losses of LE22 million monthly and is having a negative impact on maintenance and operations.
The study was submitted to the Cabinet last year, since when, regular statements from officials concerning ticket prices have fueled speculations on when a new policy might be implemented.
In March, former Transportation Minister Saad al-Gioushy promised to keep metro ticket prices economical, although he said the ticket price for the new air-conditioned train on line number one could reach as high as LE3, in addition to a 10 percent annual increase.
Nevertheless, in anticipation of public resistance to the price increase on a transport system used by 3.5 million passengers each day and serving some of the poorest districts of Egypt's capital, the ministry decided last June to postpone increasing prices until the first batch of air-conditioned trains was in operation on the first line. They hoped that citizens would be able to see improvements being made to the metro service before the prices go up.
The new, air-conditioned trains imported from Korea have been steadily introduced onto metro line one (Helwan-Marg) over the course of the last year. The ministry now say they will not raise ticket prices until all the new trains are in operation.
The ministry has also announced the possibility of reduced rates for students, the disabled and low income households, when steeper prices are introduced.
Informed sources from the ECMMO have said the company hopes to tackle the wide margin of losses in order to cover the cost of staff wages and maintenance. The increase in prices is the only solution, they said, to saving the metro from becoming like the national railway service.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm