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Heliopolis Municipality Completely Removes Tram Line, Egypt


Cairo had boasted an extensive network of tram lines that were installed in the late 19th century. These became neglected starting in the 1970's due to a development vision that favoured economic liberation and  privatisation. By the late 20th century, the lines in central Cairo had been dismantled and the Heliopolis line was one of the few remaining and functioning tram lines. Since the early 2000s, and with the expansion of Cairo's subway metro network, there have been numerous calls for the overhaul of the Heliopolis tram line. 

These campaigns by the Heliopolis community and residents, and by urban planning experts and environmentalists had been sustaining momentum and visibility from around 2012. This seemed to pay off, when, in 2016, it was announced that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Ministry of International Cooperation (MOIC) had signed a 250 million US dollar loan deal to overhaul and revive the tram line. 

In April 2018, the project was on the parliament agenda. However, in August 2018, citizens were surprised by the dismantling of the tracks. This happened without prior consultation, and despite indicators and government announcements having pointed to the intention of reviving the tram line.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Heliopolis Municipality Completely Removes Tram Line, Egypt
State or province:Cairo
Location of conflict:Heliopolis
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Public transport services, Fossil vehicle fuel

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2012
Relevant government actors:Ministry of International Cooperation (MoIC)
Ministry of Transport
Subway Authority
Cairo Governorate
Heliopolis Municipality
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Green Arm Nahdet El Mahrousa (
Heliopolis Heritage Initiative (

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Air pollution, Global warming
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood


Project StatusIn operation
Development of alternatives:Local environmental groups like Green Arm Nahdet El Mahrousa are Heliopolis Heritage Initiative pushing for an upgrade of the tram network.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite public appeals and official indicators to the contrary, the tram line was still removed by as yet unclear state actors. No transparency or consultation in the decision making process, no clear rationale for this step.
It comes after almost a decade of public protests and appeals that have been met with often conflicting and misleading official announcements by various state actors about the government's plans and intentions for the tram line, and that often sought to placate the protests with reassurances about the intention to "overhaul" and "develop" the tram and not remove it.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Parliamentary motion to the Minister of Transport to discuss details of the cooperation deal and MoU signed to revive the Heliopolis tram on

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

News announcement of the MoU signed between Egypt's MoIC and EBRD, published on 11 May 2016

EBRD to finance Cairo tram revival

News report on the loan deal and MoU between the MoIC and EBRD, published on 8 June 2016

A Public Transport Renaissance? Cairo Rethinks the Tram

Another news announcement of the MoU signed between Egypt's MoIC and EBRD, published on 11 May 2016

Heliopolis tramway revival memorandum signed

Informative report on the history and deterioration of Cairo's trams by Cairobserver, published on 30 August 2012

On Cairo's Dying Trams

EBRD press release about the package to support the Egyptian transport and Heliopolis tram line, published on 10 May 2016

EBRD to support transport and water sectors in Egypt

Report about the ailing Heliopolis tram line documenting public protest to its removal and containing statements by state officials denying the intention to completely remove it, published on 20 September 2014

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Statement by the Heliopolis Heritage Initiative following the start of the removal of some parts of the Heliopolis tram line, 28 July 2016

Meta information

Contributor:Platform London, [email protected]
Last update04/07/2019



Tram in El Cairo