Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tangier to Casablanca in Two Hours by Train

Morocco's high speed rail ambitions have moved a step closer with the signing of agreements. In the ceremony, which was held in Tangier and attended by His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, two loan and fund guarantee agreements, both estimated at around Dh367.3 million (about US$ 100 million), were signed.

The loan agreement was signed by Mr. Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, Acting Director General of ADFD, and Mr. Mohammed Rabie' AL Khalie', Director General of the National Railway Bureau in Morocco. Meanwhile, Mr. Al Suwaidi and Salaheddine Mezouar, the Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance, signed the guarantee agreement.

Commenting on the event, Al Suwaidi said that the high speed railway project would make a huge qualitative stride in the transport field in Morocco by providing a highly competitive means of transportation in terms of safety, quality and speed. "The project will meet the expected increase in demand on this type of transportation after the operation of Tangier Mediterranean port, which was financed with Dh 734.6 million contribution from ADFD and which is expected to witness excessive activities in 2012", he said.

Al Suwaidi noted that the high speed railway could cut travel times between the main cities of Casablanca and Tangier from 5 hours to just two, positively reflecting on the economic development pace by doubling number of containers and raising number of passengers from 6 to 10 million starting from 2015 every year.

The high speed railway project includes the construction of the first phase 200 km high speed track (320km/h) between Tangier and Kenitra and connecting it to the existing railway network. It also involves civil works, equipment supply for the existing accesses and facilities in Tangier and Kenitra stations, purchase of self-propelled coaches for high speed trains and construction of train maintenance station in Tangier.

France has finalised a 400-million-euro deal to supply Morocco with the high-speed TGV trains. The French group Alstom is to provide the north African country with 14 high speed train sets that will enter service in December 2015 on the Tangiers-Casablanca route.

“It’s a great contract to start off with,” says Philippe Mellier, head of Alstom Transport, adding that other contracts were possible in the future

“This contract is symbolic because it shows Morocco’s capacity to acquire very high tech equipment,” says Mellier, “Morocco is the first African country to embrace high speed rail transport.”

With the new trains in service, it should take passengers two hours and ten minutes to travel from Tangiers to Casablanca instead of the current four hours.

The signing of the contract follows an earlier agreement reached between France and Morocco during a visit from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in October 2007.

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