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Vectos Leads Rail Security and Safety Study in Egypt

Vectos is undertaking a comprehensive assessment of user needs including developing a series of recommendations to improve the safety and service of rail services in Egypt. This will not only help to bridge the gap in gender equality, but will also improve the commercial viability of the national railway utility and achieve positive socio-economic change by increasing the workforce.

Our work is being carried out on behalf of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for the Egyptian National Railways (ENR) with funding from the EBRD Special Shareholders Fund. However, the findings of the research are also expected to be transferable to other operators around the world, fostering the implementation of programmes to support safer and more secure travel globally.

Sexual harassment in public places is a major issue of concern in Egypt with 81.8%1 of women frequently harassed on public transport. As the role of women in the workforce evolves, their safety using public transport, which provides access to jobs and prosperity becomes especially important.

Women’s mobility and ultimately the percentage of women in the labour force has been dropping since 2013. It is widely felt that fear caused by increasing occurrences of physical and verbal harassment, rising insecurity following the Arab Spring and men not allowing their wives, sisters or mothers to travel unaccompanied are key factors.

Evidence shows that transport provision is a strong tool for achieving socio-economic change. By creating a more amenable mobility environment, accessibility to jobs and services can be improved to benefit the Egyptian economy and society at large.

Commercially for ENR, an initiative that considers the perspectives of both genders could significantly increase demand for services. The intervention is particularly relevant in the Egyptian context where rail plays a big role in the economy and is an essential mode of transport across most socio-economic groups, delivering 1.2 million journeys each day.

Yet because decision makers in transport operators tend to be men, the needs of women have been neglected and hence their mobility has been seriously constrained. For women, this translates into limited economic and learning opportunities, serious health, safety and security hazards, and overall disempowerment.

Vectos’ approach to assess the situation has consisted of six elements: researching and reviewing international best practice in planning for more accessible stations, platforms and trains; focus groups with users, non-users and ENR staff to gauge perceptions and obtain opinions; conducting surveys of rail users (both genders); an analysis of the findings; and the engagement and training of ENR staff through a management training and validation programme.

Vectos Director and Gender and Transport Expert Professor Laurence Pickup and Project Manager Paul Curtis recently visited Cairo to present the Gender & Transport Study Report to ENR management. This report includes recommendations to increase the safety and security of ENR services across the areas of design, operations and management. The report calls for measures such as: a second pilot of a women only carriage; training for security personnel to improve security; additional helplines on platforms; improved access for mobility impaired; and a far-reaching publicity campaign to improve passenger behaviour. Vectos delivered a training programme to equip ENR with the skills to implement such recommendations into the organisation.

This project has already initiated an internal dialogue within ENR about gender and the need for adapting the services to men and women’s passenger transport needs. The process of this study has acted as a catalyst for change amongst the professional mind-sets of ENR management who have started to deliver improvements. For example, ENR has introduced telephone help lines on platforms to offer passengers the security of being able to call station staff for assistance.

This research is unique in the transport field and has produced information on the overall toolbox of measures that could provide clear demonstrable effects to other operators. Across the EBRD region and beyond, operators can benefit from the findings of this research to make rail travel safer and more secure. Vectos is ideally placed to help other operators develop their own customised packages of solutions to provide gender-responsive transport services.

Please follow the link to the Safe transport for all: Issues and operational lessons from the Egyptian National Railways report below to view the official study findings.


1. According to a study released in 2013 by UNWOMEN, 81.8% of the female respondents interviewed in Cairo were frequently harassed in public transportation.