Now Arriving: The World’s Oldest Trading Empire Is Getting New Trains

July 17, 2017

By Bruce Watson, GE Reports; July 12, 2017

For most of recorded history, Egypt has been at the cutting edge of transportation technology. The country had a canal connecting the Nile and the Red Sea thousands of years before the Suez Canal was built. Egypt boasts the world’s oldest seaport, and in 1852, it also opened the first rail line in Africa and the Middle East linking Alexandria to the city of Kafr el-Zayyat.

But all this glamorous history now needs some upgrades. Egypt’s once-proud rail network now carries less than 1 percent of all domestic freight. That’s just a fraction of the roughly 40 percent that trains in the U.S. carry, for example. Instead, the majority of Egypt’s goods add to congestion on the country’s already busy roads. “Truck transport causes lots of accidents, pollutes the environment and adds to the traffic for which Egypt — especially Cairo — has become notorious,” says Ayman Khattab, president and CEO of GE North Africa.

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