Morocco has just inaugurated Africa’s first true high-speed rail line, running between Tangier, the capital Rabat and Casablanca at speeds of up to 320km/h, cutting travel times from five hours to two-and-a-half.
King Mohammed VI was joined by Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, for a ceremony at the renovated Tangier Ville station and a seat on the first departure. The service has been named “Al Boraq”, a reference to a winged steed, which in Islamic mythology carried the prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Jerusalem. President Macron said the project reflected “the depth of bilateral relations based on a strong partnership between the two countries”.
The high-speed section runs for 186 km from Tangier to Kenitra, just north of Rabat. The remaining section to Casablanca has been upgraded to 160 km/h, a speed that will later be increased to 220 km/h. National operator ONCF expects to carry 6 million passengers on its high-speed services during the first three years of operation.
The €2.1bn line was partially funded by a €625m loan from France, along with €80m from the Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development. It was built by Moroccan contractor Société Générale des Travaux du Maroc along with a number of French companies including Alstom, the Ansaldo-Ineo group, and the Colas Rail-Egis Rail consortium.
Alstom supplied 12 Avelia Euroduplex double-deck trainsets at a cost of €400m. Alstom also supplied the signalling system. The line is also the fastest in the North African, Middle East region, being 20 km/h speedier than the recently opened link between Mecca, Jeddah and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
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