Hiring engineers to drive trains, this is the latest attempt by the Ministry of Transport in Egypt to confront repeated train accidents in recent times, which have led to dozens of deaths and injuries, amid public anger and government promises to solve the crisis.
The last two major incidents occurred in the months of last March and April; But the subsequent period was not without accidents, albeit small, the last of which was yesterday, Wednesday, when trains were disrupted near the station of the city of Banha, located about 60 km north of Cairo, due to the wheel of one of the trains derailing, before the driver was able to stop the train and control On position without injury.
The recurrence of accidents prompted experts and citizens to question whether the move, which the Minister of Transport, Kamel al-Wazir, spoke about could end or reduce train accidents, as well as other questions related to the difference between the driver and the engineer, a graduate of engineering colleges in this matter, and what is the fate of the drivers other than Alumni of these colleges? Do graduates of technical engineering colleges accept work as train drivers?
The minister had spoken late last month about his intention to appoint engineers from technological colleges to lead railway trains, after training and passing the necessary courses, which the media close to the authority considered a serious step to reduce train accidents.
And the “Seventh Day” website quoted sources in the Egyptian Railways Authority that it was agreed during a meeting of the minister with the authority’s leaders to appoint 200 engineers initially to work as train drivers, and 250 engineers specializing in electricity to work as tower monitors and central control of the trains’ tracks.
In the context of the decision, which sparked controversy between supporters, opponents and questioners; Muhammad Ali, a train driver who has worked for the Railways Authority for 30 years, expressed his astonishment at the minister’s statements, saying that a driver on the railways needs many years of work to be qualified for a driver’s job.
Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Muhammad Ali explained that the train driver arrives at his job after spending 10 years working as an assistant driver or what is known as “thirsty”, then at least 5 years as a driver of trains carrying goods only, not passengers, and then a driver on demand for a similar period.
the train driver asked; Will the engineer accept all these years of training? Will he start as a driver or co-driver? And if he worked as a driver, how would he accept the co-driver, who spent years becoming his boss, someone who came to the railways for a short time, and he has spent all these years, which are no less than 10 years in this job?
He added that there are regulations, instructions and skills that are acquired over time, and the suffering of walking on the rails for many years, during which the driver preserves the road and the conditions of the various crossings, places of calm, and dealing with emergency situations, which the engineer can only absorb in similar years.
The minister caused the recent accidents
For his part, another train driver – who preferred to be satisfied with the symbol for his name with (MM) – strongly blamed the leaders of the Ministry of Transport, and said that the biggest problem lies in the presence of a defect in their method, considering that the recent accidents were the result of the accumulation of years of neglect for the sector; But it was all loaded up for the human factor.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, the driver indicated that the two major accidents of Sohag and Toukh in particular were the result of the instructions of the Minister of Transport himself to separate the “ATC” device (ATC) in an attempt to solve the train delay crisis, after the drivers told him that the delay is due to following the instructions of the device .
This device controls the course of the trains automatically, and reduces the speed of trains, perhaps to 8 kilometers per hour in the ground files, or the signaling devices malfunction for any reason. Because the device stops the movement of the train automatically.
The minister indicated to the drivers’ leaders – during a meeting – the necessity of separating the device and running the trains according to their experience at faster speeds with care, and the result was what we saw, according to the driver.
It is noteworthy that the Minister of Transport requested that the automatic control devices in the trains not be disconnected, after repeated accidents, and demanded that the Egyptians bear the delay of trains for a period until the completion of the repair and development of railways, trains and chus.
How do you blame a driver whose rewards did not exceed 20 years ago for a mileage 5 piasters (the pound is 100 piaster and the pound is less than $ 16)? Thus, the headmaster of one of the train stations told Al Jazeera Net, calling for the drivers’ conditions to be taken into account, instead of making them scapegoats for the mistakes of the great leaders.
The station overseer, who preferred not to be named, explained the nature of the kilometer rewards for drivers, as the Railway Authority grants drivers additional rewards on the basic salary of 5 piasters for each kilometer that the train driver travels during his journey.
He added that the number of daily train trips across Egypt exceeds 2,400, wondering how the number announced by the minister (250 engineers) will cover these trips, or how will he distribute them on trips to avoid train accidents, as he thinks?
He stressed that the minister’s statements are nothing but a kind of “show”, and lack logic, and may be to relieve pressure on him after citizens’ demands that he be dismissed due to recent incidents, he said.
The irony and welcome of the engineers
On the other hand, Ihab Adel, a student in the Mechanical Power Engineering Department at the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Helwan University, confirmed that the Minister of Transport’s statements created a state of controversy among his colleagues at the faculty, as some mocked the idea of his work as a train driver.
Some of them said, “Do I excel in my studies in high school and enter one of the top colleges, in order to eventually work as a train driver like me, like graduates of technical secondary schools, and perhaps like others who did not obtain an academic qualification?”, Adel told Al Jazeera Net.
He explained that some of his colleagues saw in this step the opening of a door to work that would expand the choices of graduates of engineering colleges, especially if the authority evaluated the graduates financially and morally upon appointment.
Adel believes that the minister’s statements are an opportunity for graduates of various colleges of technology and colleges of industrial education, the 5-year system, where the graduates will not refuse to work as train drivers, unlike graduates of engineering colleges.
Accidents and accusations
Egypt has recently witnessed several catastrophic train accidents, killing dozens of people, and hundreds of injured, the most famous of which is the Sohag accident, which witnessed the collision of two trains, one of which was stopped at the end of last March, and a few days later the Toukh train accident, which derailed last April, leaving dead and injured .
The social networking sites erupted with outrage at the Egyptians, during which they demanded the necessity of dismissing the Minister of Transport, who, they said, failed to manage the Ministry of Transport. But the minister blamed all of the responsibility on the drivers and some railway workers.
The minister spoke before Parliament about the presence of railway employees from the Muslim Brotherhood, accusing them of causing obstruction to work, and demanded legislation that would allow him to dismiss those belonging to the group, which brought him a break of criticism and ridicule on the communication sites.
The deputy and journalist close to the security services presented a list of the names of employees of the commission, who he said belong to the Brotherhood and to erotic movements, according to the security description contained in the list, which is the term used by security to describe political activists and members of youth and revolutionary movements.
Four days ago, the Parliament’s Legislative Committee approved, in principle, a law allowing the government to dismiss employees belonging to the Brotherhood.