Two of the major hurdles facing the public transport sector in Cairo are developing mass transportation and encouraging those operating in the informal sector to join the formal and organised sector, said Alain Flausch, Secretary General at the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).
Daily News Egypt sat down with Flausch, on the sidelines of the Developing Bus Rapid Transit in Greater Cairo conference on Monday, to discuss the public transport sector in Cairo and what the UITP can provide to its members to assist in resolving transport-related problems.
Can you tell us about UITP and its role in advancing sustainable urban mobility?
UITP is a worldwide organisation with its main office in Brussels and 13 other offices around the world. Our role is to allow the exchange of knowledge and good practices for local players. Secondly, it’s a network of people from various countries so members at UITP can assist each other in solving problems and sharing expertise in resolving transport related issues.
Moreover, we have an advocacy role as we promote public transport on a worldwide basis to reach entities as the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank and all the international big bodies. We further help local members in advocating public transport in their own country.
So is Cairo already a member at UITP?
Currently no, the metro of Cairo however used to be a member some years ago, but because of money problems I guess they resigned, now we’re trying to rebuild some sort of a new Egyptian chapter because we believe that Cairo is facing big challenges so it would be good for them to exchange information with colleagues (members) and that’s the value of UITP, its members who share good and bad experiences with one another.
So Cairo metro was a member. Why did they resign? Was it costly for them?
I don’t know the specific reason why they resigned, becoming a member however is not expensive at all, it could cost a maximum amount of around €25,000 a year, and if we compare this with other worldwide consultants that could cost millions, we’ll find that the cost is not big as long as you do something with it, and make the best out of it.
Are you planning to assist the Egyptian government in the development of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems?
Yes, what we’re trying to do here is to launch the first event where we attract the attention of the local people then eventually they would join UITP and then we can work with them to develop the BRT bus system or rail or any other mode of transport.
There is the problem of the informal system that you have here in Egypt, and all over Africa by the way, which is very disorganised and chaotic and this needs to move to the formal public transport system, which is a difficult process. We however have been able to solve such a problem in places in Africa, such as Cape Town and we have plenty of good experiences in the African continent. If the government is interested in our assistance, we can do that step by step.
How can Egypt become a member at UITP?
On the national level, the Ministry of Transport needs to become a member, then on the Cairo level for instance if there’s a transportation department; it could become a member as well. Further, the metro of Cairo could become a member. The ecosystem of transportation has various players, such as the authorities, the industry itself, the operators and so forth. They all need to integrate together and then they can do something to solve their problems and of course with the international help they could gain insights, recommendations, do’s and don’ts and so on.
And what will Cairo or any operator gain by becoming a UITP member?
They can get to participate in workshops and so forth held by UITP, and thus start to exchange experiences with colleagues and if a member country is facing a specific problem it can come inform us and we can organise a seminar with other member countries with similar conditions or those who faced similar problems and of course they can help them even more afterwards and build relationships with them. Moreover, every year we send three or four experts from our international network to spend a week or so at the member country and develop a report about the transport sector in the country, listing and prioritising the main hurdles being faced so we provide them with help and technical expertise, but then they have to continue the job to solve the problems themselves.
Obviously the transport system in Cairo is facing various obstacles. What do you think are the main hurdles and how can the government resolve them?
Using small or mini buses to provoke congestion is not the proper way to solve this problem. Egypt needs to develop mass transportation. The city of Cairo for instance can continue the initiative of buying small buses and converting them into bigger ones with higher capacity.
Further, getting rid of the informal sector is another hurdle and trying to convince those operating in the informal transport sector to join a programme of a real bus system that is organised by the city and operated by a professional operator is vital.
Modern and well equipped buses need to be made available for better public service, and old buses need to be modernised and upgraded. People will not choose public transport if it’s not attractive.
With your dealings with financial institutions such as the World Bank, do they help you in financing projects in the transport sector for member countries?
Yes from time to time, basically with the World Bank their relations are on the state level. One of the problems facing public transportation is that it’s being decentralised, making the process for the World Bank difficult as the bank speaks with states and not regional cities so we have to facilitate this possibility. Secondly the World Bank is missing a lot of statistics concerning public transport, so we provide them with the needed statistics so that they could have the right reference to decide whether or not they will finance specific projects. There is plenty of money that doesn’t get used by the World Bank because countries are not presenting good projects that are well studied and well established, so we provide training on different levels for member countries to present feasible projects.