16 November 2018

Africa: High-Speed Train - Morocco Commissions Africa's First Rail Line

Photo: Liberation
Ligne à grande vitesse du Maroc

Worth 1,508.7 billion FCFA, the project took 8 years to complete.

Morocco on November 15, 2018 made rail transport history by inaugurating the continent's first high-speed or bullet train line from Casablanca to Tangier, the kingdom's two economic hubs on the Mediterranean coast, Radio France International, RFI reported. The project was commissioned by King Mohammed VI and French President Emmanuel Macron.

With the development, travel time between Casablanca and Tangier by normal train has been slashed from five hours to two and half hours, officials explained. In the long run, the bullet train line will be extended to connect the two southern cities of Marrakech and Agadir. Worth 2.3 billion Euros (1,508.7 billion FCFA), the project took 8 years to complete. Half of the funding came from France, while Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, provided the remainder.

According to an economist, Mehdi Fakir, the dividends of high-speed train transport are enormous. "It is not a matter of luxury. Time is a major factor in business travel. The new line will ease travel between Morocco's two economic hubs," Fakir noted. Cable News Network, CNN reported that the French-made double-decker coaches being used on the line were tested last year. The new trains can reach speeds of 321 km per hour.

Morocco expects the trains to deliver wealth and prestige for the country. But opponents claim they are unnecessary because of the huge cost. Nevertheless, high-speed trains fit within a wider programme of infrastructure development in Morocco. The country boasts the world's largest solar plant and several major ports, intended to stimulate economic growth. Mohamed Rabie Khlie, Director General of the national rail operator, ONCF, says they are aiming at six million passengers a year after three years of commercial operation, instead of three million currently.


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