Monday, February 11, 2013

Casablanca Light Rail ~ The First Two Months

After the first assessment of the new light rail system in Casablanca, Light Rail officials say things are on track, but not yet at at the standard they are aiming for and a further traffic reduction is hoped for

State of the art trams are now running in Casa (Photo Sandy McCutcheon)

Though the passenger figures seem impressive the officials say they can be bettered. The Casa Tramway carried 1.2 million passengers and estimates 40,000 to 45,000 have travelled daily since it opened on December 12th, but that volume is well below the fleet's target of 250,000. However, once the fleet expands to 37 trams in March, the system will be at full capacity and hopefully there will be reduced delays and a speeding up of the service, operators said.

The 5.9 billion dirham (528 million euros) project aimed to ease traffic congestion in Casa. It is hoped that 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 said.

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.

The View from Fez writer, Suzanna Clarke, reported on her first Casa Light Rail Experience. "It is a perfect way to get around without traffic hassles and the trams are just as good as those in Bordeaux or other European cities. And, at only seven dirhams a ride, they are considerable cheaper."

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