Algiers metro moves into final test phase
Sunday 11 September 2011
Two hundred guests including four government ministers on Thursday took the subway in Algiers, where a long-awaited metro system is moving into a final phase of tests before opening to the public.
Trade Minister Mustapha Benbada said the trip was a "historic" step in urban transport in the Algerian capital.
The minister of industry, small and medium-sized businesses and investment promotion, Mohamed Benmeradi, described the ride as "a very good thing on which we can only congratulate ourselves."
Run by the RATP El Djazair (Algiers), modelled on Paris's autonomous public transport authority (RATP), the metro is due to open to the public "around November 1," according to Transport Minister Amar Tou.
In the eight weeks before then, train drivers, technicians and other RATP El Djazair staff will carry out about 100 tests on the circulation of trains, the management of stations and the application of safety measures.
During this trial phase, the metro will carry a limited number of passengers for free, and that number will be increased until the subway system is ready to go fully operational.
Transport Minister Tou did not want to announce the total cost of the metro, saying that it would be best disclosed after the final test phase, but he added that it was less expensive than might be imagined.
Declaring himself "happy but stressful," RATP El Djazair's Director General Pascal Garret told AFP that the next eight weeks would be helpful in training staff and testing different kinds of equipment.
Line 1 on the Algers metro is 8.5 kilometres (5.3 miles) long and will serve 10 stations from the Grande Poste in the city centre to the Hai Al Badr district at Kouba in the southeast.
The metro will employ 500 staff and more than 400 police will oversee its security. The line will be open seven days per week from 5:00 am to 11:00 pm.
The equipment - tracks, rolling stock, command post and the interior design of stations - was provided by Siemens France, the French subsidiary of the German engineering giant, the French company Vinci and the Spanish firm CAF, for a total amount of 380 million euros (531 million dollars).
In 2007, France's RATP won a contract to develop and get into service the new metro line over eight years.
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