8 February 2013

Morocco: Casablancans Adjust to New Tramway

Casablanca — Two months since its inauguration, Casablanca's light rail system is reducing city traffic.

Although the desired level of satisfaction has not yet been achieved, the first assessment of the Casablanca tram network was positive, officials said at January 22nd press conference.

Casa Tramway carried 1.2 million passengers and estimates 40,000 to 45,000 daily since it opened on December 12th, but that volume is well below the fleet's targeted ridership of 250,000.

Once the fleet expands to 37 trams in March, the system will be at full capacity, thereby reducing delays and speeding up service, operators said.

The 5.9 billion dirham (528 million euros) project aimed to ease traffic congestion in the kingdom's most populous city. Since light rail makes it easier to reach downtown Casablanca, many commuters may decide not to drive.

The project also directly created 2,000 jobs and generated another 2,000, including jobs for women who make up 12% of the tramway's drivers.

But Casablanca's new light rail system has also raised some concerns, and motorists who fail to yield to trams are causing gridlock and crashes, system operators said.

Officials with both Casa Tramway and Casablanca Transport said they recognised problems and were working to solve them and gradually improve service.

"Many vehicles are not complying with the Highway Code, and then there is the lack of public spirit and vigilance on the part of road users and the failure to give way to trams," said Casablanca Transport Chief Executive Youssef Draiss.

"It has to be recognised that these things are always complicated at the beginning and adjustments have to be made on an on-going basis in order to move forward," Casa Tramway Chief Executive Khalid Rahmani told Magharebia.

During its nearly two months in service, the tramway has become an essential means of transport for students, public-sector workers, housewives, the elderly and visitors to Casablanca.

Salim Morafiq, a banker who works for an agency in the city's centre, no longer drives to work.

"Even though there are delays from time to time, the tram is perfectly convenient for me," he said.

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