Local officials have claimed that the £5.7billion project to build a second channel in the Suez Canal will be finished in August

An $8.5billion (£5.7billion) construction project to add a second channel to the Suez Canal is ahead of schedule, Egyptian officials have claimed.

Due for completion in August, the new waterway will allow two-way traffic in sections of the canal where it was not previously possible.

Ashraf Salman, Egypt’s investment minister, told the BBC: “We are monitoring this project every day. We are ahead of schedule.”

The minister added that the new 12-month project will put Egypt “back on the map” after a turbulent few years of revolutions and violent protests.

Connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, the Suez Canal is one of the most important inland waterways in the world, handling 7% of global sea-borne trade.

The new 72km channel is expected to create an extra $7.9billion in revenue over the next eight years by increasing the canal’s daily capacity by 98 % and cutting transit times by seven hours.