MPs blame govt for Ayyat train crash

The transport commission of the People’s Assembly will convene an urgent meeting today to discuss the circumstances that preceded Saturday’s fatal train crash in Ayyat. The Minister of Transportation and the head of Railway Authority were also summoned for the meeting.

A state of furor dominated the representatives yesterday as a result of the crash. Many submitted urgent information requests and questions through which they held the government responsible, accusing it of negligence and indifference in dealing with frequent train accidents.

Hamdy el-Tahhan, transport committee chairman, said in a statement that the reoccurrence of such accidents indicates that there is a state of negligence at the railway authority. He noted that the distance between both trains was 20 minutes, long enough to avoid collision.

El-Tahhan added that the driver of the first train had informed the control room that he stopped. The control room contains a machine called the ATC, which can stop the train automatically without interference by the driver, el-Tahhan said, wondering whether a breakdown occurred then. He also suggested that the control room may have been empty.

Another possibility, according to el-Tahhan, is that the cables necessary for connecting the communications had been stolen. He said the Minister of Transportation once told him that trains stationed at the garages had 20 per cent of their components stolen. "I suggested putting a dog at each train for protection," el-Tahhan said.

The committee chairman reiterated the importance of establishing a council for transportation safety supervised by the cabinet and comprised of officials and scientists from different sectors. That council, he suggested, would be responsible for issuing recommendations based on studies of past accidents. The state, he said, should be bound by these recommendations.

Meanwhile, Hamdy Hassan, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, demanded holding all officials behind the catastrophe accountable. Twice as many resources are devoted to the regime’s security as secure services for the people, Hassan said.

Salah el-Sayegh, a Wafd party representative, accused the Minister of Transportation of failing to solve the crises faced by railway services. He also demanded during a parliamentary session that the Prime Minister and Minister of Transportation hold those responsible for the state of deterioration accountable.

Gamal el-Zeiny of the ruling National Democratic Party suggested legislation mandating insurance for all transportation users, emphasizing that frequent replacement of Railway Authority managers has not guaranteed the security required inside trains. He questioned the commercials that bothered the citizens during the month of Ramadan, trying to make a positive image of the railway utility, since people used to have a negative idea about it.

Ahmed Shabon, representative for Giza, also blamed the government for the crash. He said that the corruption that has spread through all sectors of government continues to take the lives of Egyptians whether through train collisions, cancerous pesticides, rotten wheat, or sewage irrigation.

At the Shura Council, representative Mowawad Khattab asked the council’s speaker, Safwat al-Sharif, about the government’s stance concerning the frequent train accidents. Khattab said he wondered whether Saturday’s collision was the byproduct of run-down trains. He also called on the government to take all possible measures to learn the reasons behind such accidents in order to avoid them in the future.

Khattab highlighted that the Railway Authority spares no efforts to renew the existing cars, yet catastrophes continue.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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