By Sami Zaptia.
London, 10 November 2020:
Egypt is planning to build a railway line linking the country’s north-western province of Marsa Matrouh to Benghazi, Egyptian media reports.
The announcement was made by Egyptian Transport Minister Kamel Al-Wazir during a Cairo press conference on Sunday.
“We are planning to construct a Marsa Matrouh railway network – off the port of Jarjoub – including the Marsa Matrouh-Siwa line, as well as the Matrouh-Salloum line, extending to the Libyan city of Benghazi,” Kamel Al-Wazir told reporters.
Al-Wazir added that the projects would be carried out “in cooperation with investors.” The Benghazi line is part of the Egyptian government’s larger plans to develop its rail transport network which includes a link to Sudan.
Analysts see Egypt’s intention to build a rail link to Benghazi as an attempt not only to improve economic links, but also an attempt to cement its current political links with eastern Libya. It will be recalled that in the war on Tripoli (April 2019 – June 2020), Egypt supported the eastern-based Khalifa Hafter. Hafter failed to take Tripoli.
It will be recalled that Libya’s railway project, running across the coast and down south to Sebha, has been stalled since the 2011 revolution with the lack of funds preventing foreign contractors from resuming their work, despite a number of announcements to the contrary.
Libya’s US $12 billion rail project was split between Russian Railways (RZhD), tasked in 2008 with building the 554-km line between Sirte and Benghazi, and the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC).
The Chinese were awarded a contract in 2008 to build the line from Sirte to Khoms and then on to the Tunisian border at Ras Jedir. The Chinese also won the contract to build the 800-kilometre line between Misrata and Wadi Shatti near Sebha. Both started on their projects but were forced to stop work with the advent of the 2011 revolution.
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