Algeria’s first underground metro out of tunnel, after long wait

Underground metro sees light years after ‘black decade’

Algiers on Monday inaugurated North Africa's first underground metro system amid much fanfare after three decades of work interrupted by an oil crisis and a civil war.
The streets around the main post office, where the single 10-stop line ends, were painted afresh for launch celebrations led by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
To celebratory gunfire, music and the beating of drums, Bouteflika cut a red ribbon outside one of line's 10 stops in the east of the capital as balloons in the national colours red, white and green were released into the sky.
Accompanied by his transport and interior ministers and hordes of journalists and guests, Bouteflika obtained a ticket and made his way through a turnstile to board a metro train.
At the main post office six stations away, a guard of honour made up of Algeria's army, air force and navy awaited Bouteflika as he emerged onto a red carpet.
The underground rail network is aimed at easing traffic but the gridlock in the four-million-strong city was even worse than usual Monday amid tight security restrictions across the capital.
The project was first floated before independence in the 1950s, but work for Africa's second metro after Cairo began in earnest in 1982.
Work had been interrupted in the 1980s by the fallout of the oil crisis, when the barrel fell from 40 to nine dollars, crippling an economy that relies on oil and gas exports for the vast majority of its income.
It was again put on the back burner in the 1990s, Algeria's "black decade", when a fierce Islamist insurgency and its repression by the government killed an estimated 200,000 and brought the country to its knees.
The Algiers metro will start taking passengers on Tuesday.
The cost of a single fare was set at 50 dinars (half a euro), a sum criticised as unaffordable for many Algerians, but Transport Minister Amar Tou said a monthly fare would bring it down to 35 dinars.
"The fare at cost price would actually be 84 dinars but it is subsidised by the state," he said.