Strike in Egypt brings the railway service to a halt

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A nationwide strike by train drivers in Egypt on Sunday brought the country's railway service to a complete halt, the latest in a wave of industrial action that followed the 2011 uprising.

The strike came in response to a government proposal to raise benefit payments by 10 percent from May, which the drivers rejected as too little, the head of Egypt's railway authority, Hussein Zakaria, said.

The drivers are demanding salary raises as well as pay for holidays worked, in addition to overtime and indemnity payments.

“Our problem is with the Ministry of Transportation, but we are continuing our job because life needs to go on. We want Egypt to go forward. We don't want the country to further collapse,” a driver told Al Arabiya.

Buses have been provided to cover some of the train routes, officials said.

Train drivers have long complained of lengthy working hours in a system that is poorly maintained.

The Egypt rail network's poor management has led to a series of deadly accidents, sparking widespread anger over safety standards.

An Egyptian citizen asked: “Where is management? The problem is not in the administration of train services... the problem is within the state itself. The state has unfortunately collapsed. Where is the state when it should be assisting in these crises?”

In January, a train carrying military conscripts derailed southwest of Cairo, killing 19 people and injuring 107.

In the country's deadliest railway tragedy, the bodies of more than 360 passengers were recovered from a train after a fire in 2002.