The ‘pitiful state’ of Damietta station
[Egypt 2013 Archive]
Sometimes you read a report that draws you in but when you finish it you have more questions than answers. To be honest, that happens quite a lot with press reports about Egyptian railways because most journalists don’t really understand railways systems, either don’t use or misuse Arabic railway technical language and don’t write in a logical sequence, which makes their reports difficult to follow. That’s what happened with this report from Rabab Gamal in Masralarabia last Saturday. After reading it, I thought it was negative, exaggerated, misleading and stylistically silly (in Arabic), but worth including on this blog because it’s about Damietta. She says Damietta has only 3 Cairo trains but fails to mention the locals to Mansura and Tanta (Table 5a). Her comments about being a lair for addicts and criminals seems, ahem, over-stated. Work has also now resumed and might actually finish too. It’s also worth noting the station is a terminus.
From memory, Damietta station is on the west bank of the Nile branch, but the city is on the east bank, so the station is fairly remote from the city centre. (Please correct me if I’m mistaken). She writes:
Damietta station is not so different from other stations around the country, but it has no platform nor a footbridge to protect passengers since the last one was sold for scrap. With a low platform and no ladders, passengers have great difficulty in getting on and off trains and have to walk across the tracks. The level crossings have also seen no development despite officials to-ing and fro-ing with plans to prevent the regular accidents.
EGP5 million was allocated back in 2003 to build a new station and platform but the project stalled. Although it resumed last month, completion remains a far-off dream. The station serves about 5000 passengers, mostly travelling to Daqhaliya and Gharbiya Governorates. The trains themselves are like great big tin cans. Inside them the seats and windows are broken, and there is no emergency or fire equipment, so you sit in the carriage like you sit on a roller-coaster.
The station supervisor says the Arab Contractors Company have completed about 85% of the work to the station and platform, which is a comprehensive rebuild including a new police office, but were delayed due to funding difficulties.
Ibrahim Ata Allah explains operations at Damietta. The trains are 30 years old. 3 trains per day come from Cairo via Tanta and Mansura. However the station has few facilities, just basic equipment to filter and purify water so it can be used in the train batteries.
Another member of the station staff said it is suffering from neglect, particularly the level crossings, which are a risk to life, and there is no supervision, or if there is the workers do not wear railway uniform.
Passengers can see the railway has become neglected and inhumane, poles apart from cars. Carriages are not nice, and workshops have become just stores for paint. Even though the new stations was begun years ago, it has turned into ruins even before it was finished: home to snakes, stray dogs and rats; a lair for bandits and criminals.
Also, if you think the railway station might be bad, this report shows Damietta bus station is far worse.