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Alexandria tram no.215
One of the unusual double deck trams of Alexandria on route 2 between El Nasr (Victoria) and Ramlh.
These vehicles are unpowered driving trailers, traction being supplied by conventional single deck cars such as can be seen in the background of this picture.

Egypt was the location of the first railway line in Africa, opened in 1854 between Alexandria and Kafr-el-Zayat, extending to Cairo two years later. It was built to standard (1435mm) gauge. The line subsequently extended to Suez, and for a few years prior to the opening of the Suez Canal a great deal of Anglo-Indian traffic was carried between the two points, avoiding the long and perilous sea journey around the Cape of Good Hope.

The standard gauge main line eventually extended along the Nile Valley as far a Luxor, but from there to Aswan the line was built to 3ft 6in (1067mm) narrow gauge. This was part of Cecil Rhodes’ grand vision for an African transcontinental railway “from Cairo to the Cape of Good Hope”. Railways of this gauge were built in the Sudan, eastern and southern Africa; however, only the countries in the south of the continent were ultimately linked together by this gauge. The line from Luxor to Aswan was converted to standard gauge in the 1920s.

In addition to the standard gauge network, a number of industrial narrow gauge railways were built. Of these, several 2ft (610mm) gauge networks remain in operation, serving sugar plantations in the Nile Valley of Upper Egypt.

There are no international links today. A link with Palestine was established following World War I, which became of great strategic importance during World War II when it formed part of a through route to Turkey. The link was severed on Israeli independence in 1948. A rail connection to Tobruk in Libya opened in 1942, but closed in 1946 when it was no longer required for military purposes.

In 2020, a feasibility study was initiated into a 900km extension from the existing railway from Aswan to Wadi Halfa in Sudan, where it would connect with the Sudan Railways network. The extension would effectively replace an existing ferry service on the river Nile. Initially, there would be a break of gauge at Wadi Halfa, but conversion to standard gauge of the line from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum is envisaged for the future. In 2021, both governments recommited to the project, although no date has been given for the start of construction.

Also in 2020, plans were announced for extensions from the existing railway at Sallum near the Libyan border, westwards to Benghazi in Libya and southwards to Siwa.

In 2021, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed for the construction and operation of a 1000km network of new high speed rail lines for passenger and freight traffic. The first section would be a 460km line from El Alamein on the Mediterranean to Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea via the New Administrative Capital. A second section would branch off from the new main line at Borg el Arab and run to Alexandria.

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Photo image by Wrightbus from Wikimedia Commons