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Egyptian National Railways (ENR) is the sole provider of rail services in Egypt and is predominantly a passenger railway, delivering 1.2 million passenger journeys per day, including significant commuter traffic in Cairo. It is an essential mode of transport for those Egyptians who are on a low income. Since 2014, the EBRD has been supporting ENR’s modernisation efforts through a sovereign loan of €75 million to renew its rolling stock alongside a technical cooperation package.

Studies have shown a high prevalence of sexual harassment in Egypt, including in public transport. In response to this challenge, since July 2014, the EBRD has supported ENR in identifying opportunities to improve its service delivery in a safe and gender-responsive manner. The technical assistance, funded by donors under the Gender Advisory Services Framework, has consisted of a comprehensive gender assessment of ENR services. This included a review of international best practices in gender-responsive transport services; a survey of 2,000 railway users; a number of focus groups with railway users; and a validation workshop with ENR staff to discuss findings and validate recommendations of the technical support.

The assessment found that 70 per cent of the women interviewed were dissuaded from using the train to commute to work because of safety concerns. It also pointed to the crucial importance of safe transport (particularly by train) for women’s access to education and economic opportunities given that they have less access to other means of transport (for example, a private car) than men.

As a result of the technical support, ENR is changing its operations and service delivery and has started implementing recommendations of the assessment. The company has established a hotline, and is procuring surveillance cameras, increasing security personnel and upgrading lighting in the most crowded stations. As an initiative with a potentially large demonstration effect in the region, the EBRD will continue supporting ENR in the implementation of other measures to make transport services safer for all, including the design of communications and awareness-raising campaigns and training to ENR staff, among others.