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A Visit to the Cairo Monorail

A Visit to the Cairo Monorail

By Luke Carothers

Cairo and its surrounding metropolitan area has seen a significant amount of change over the last two decades.  Where once there was little to break the seemingly endless sands that encompassed the city of Cairo, a series of new developments have been built to support the region’s shifting needs and population.  Places like the New Administrative Capital–which has been under construction since 2015–are being rapidly built and expanded.  To serve the needs of this shifting population, there are several large-scale transportation and infrastructure projects underway throughout Cairo and its surrounding areas with perhaps none bigger than the Cairo Monorail.  After reporting on the Cairo Monorail’s progress over the last several years, Civil+Structural Engineer Media recently had the opportunity to visit the project and experience firsthand the progress being made on this transformational transportation project.

A View of the East of Nile (EoN) Concrete Guideway near the New Administrative Capital, Egypt. Photo Credit: Megan Payne

The Cairo Monorail project began in 2020, and is a two-line monorail rapid transit system owned by the Egyptian National Authority of Tunnels (NAT).  To help see this vital project to fruition, NAT sought out Hill International to provide Project Management services on the Cairo Monorail.   The first line is the New Administrative Capital Monorail Transportation System or the East of Nile Line (EoN), which will connect the New Administrative Capital with East Cairo via a 54-km line housing 22 stations and a depot.  The second line will be the 6th of October City Monorail Transportation System or the West of Nile Line (WoN).  This line will be 42-km in length when completed and will house another 13 stations as well as a depot.  When completed, the Cairo Monorail will be the longest driverless monorail system in the world, and will represent the first public transportation links from the New Administrative Capital and the 6th of October City to the Cairo metropolitan area.  In addition, when completed, the Cairo Monorail will significantly reduce CO2 emissions in the region.

In an area famous for sand blowing with the wind, a monorail system represents an innovative solution that eliminates the problem of sand building up along the line.  The monorail system is elevated, with the track resting upon an elevated concrete guideway.  Three years after the project first began, this elevated concrete guideway is beginning to cast an impressive shadow upon the desert landscape as it is rapidly moving towards completion.  According to Waleed Abdel Fattah, President of Hill International’s MENA region, engineering works for the Cairo Monorail are nearing 90 percent completion.  What remains of the engineering work for the project includes the completion of formal submissions for System Assurance documentation, which Abdel Fattah says will be followed by as-built drawings as the project moves through the final construction phases.

Largest span on the EoN line under construction. Photo Credit: Megan Payne

East of the Nile (EoN), the project draws a distinctive line through the landscape.  Driving east from Cairo to the New Administrative Capital, the line’s elevated guideway is a source of constant activity, with workers and materials moving endlessly along its length.  On the EoN section, about three quarters of the overall civil engineering work has been completed with about ten percent of the concrete guideway left to finish.  Along the concrete guideway, the 22 stations along the EoN line are taking shape, with each one a beehive of metal framework and construction activity.  Abdel Fattah notes that the station work along this section is at about 45 percent.  Mechanical installation has been completed on half of the switches EoN, and the long spans along the line are “various stages of construction” according to Abdel Fattah.  Systems installations on EoN are currently about 40 percent complete, and the section’s emergency walkways and power rails are in an “advanced state of installation.” 

At the eastern end of the EoN line sits its depot, which, when completed, will serve as the center of control and maintenance for the line.  The EoN depot is quickly taking shape and is about 70 percent complete according to Abdel Fattah.  At the heart of this depot sits the control center for this section of the monorail system, and its completion will represent a significant step in bringing this crucial project to fruition.   Most crucially perhaps in all this progress, all 40 train sets for the EoN line have been delivered, and procurement is complete for all materials for signaling, communications, AFC, platform screen doors, and electromechanical (MEP) systems–putting the project in a tremendous position to push forward through the final steps in completing the EoN line.

Inside the Depot for the EoN line. Section under construction consists of maintenance facilities for train operations. Photo Credit: Megan Payne

West of the Nile (WoN), construction is approximately 52 percent complete–of which line segments are 60 percent complete and stations are about halfway complete.  Progress on the WoN section–particularly in 4 line segments and 5 stations–has been slightly delayed by problems with land acquisition, but Abdel Fattah says that these issues have largely been resolved and work has started in Line Segments 8-12 and on Stations 9-12.  The WoN section will also feature a depot, which is nearing 50 percent completion.  Furthermore, Abdel Fattah says that MEP and Power Supply systems are currently under installation with all the switches in the depot and two switches on the mainline installed.  For the WoN section, six trains have already been delivered in the depot, and nine more are on the way.  For the WoN line, the major challenge to overcome has been with land acquisition and the diversion of utilities, which delayed the beginning of construction on the main structural elements of the line segments and stations.  Abdel Fattah predicts that the next six months will involve a “painstaking phase of diversion of utilities in the Zone 4 area, which is also a highly populated area.”  To overcome these challenges, Hill International and NAT are making all efforts to expedite the diversion of utilities by constant engagement with the government bodies and companies that own these utilities.

As the Cairo Monorail system continues to take shape, static tests have already started in the EoN depot.  With substantial progress in the project’s construction, power cables are finally being installed to form the power ring main for the EoN line.  Abdel Fattah believes over the next six months that we will see the completion of works in all line segments EoN and in the 7 line segments WoN.  Additionally, Abdel Fattah is hopeful that power-on of the systems may happen in the next few weeks, depending on review of local electricity authorities.  After this step is completed, this will begin the formal start of the testing and commissioning phase for the EoN line.  For the WoN line, there is strong evidence to suggest that its depot will be completed within the next six months as well as the start of major installation activities up to Station 7.  Furthermore, for the WoN line, Abdel Fattah expects significant progress in Zone 4’s line segments and stations.

View from EoN Station Looking West towards New Administrative Capital. Photo Credit Megan Payne

With significant milestones on the immediate horizon, there is reason to believe that this 97-km long system will be in operation in the near future.  Keep following Civil+Structural Engineer Magazine for more information on this transformative project in the near future.