First Published: 2017-10-10

Morocco readies to test 'fastest train in Africa'
French FM says high-speed train is emblematic of Franco-Moroccan bilateral relationship.
Middle East Online

The high-speed train is set to enter service in summer 2018

RABAT - Engineers in Morocco are preparing to test the Arab world's first high-speed railway this week with trains reaching 320 kilometres (200 miles) per hour, the country's rail office said Monday.

One train reached 275 kph (170 mph) on Monday along a stretch of track between the northern cities of Kenitra and Tangier, the ONCF said.

"This is already the fastest train on the African continent," said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was in Morocco to sign a loan deal between the ONCF and the French Development Agency.

He said the railway was "emblematic of the Franco-Moroccan bilateral relationship".

The 350-kilometre (215-mile) link between Casablanca and Tangiers via the capital Rabat will slash journey times between the North African country's economic hubs by almost two thirds, to just over two hours.

Morocco's TGV, which gets its name from the French abbreviation for high-speed trains, is set to enter service in summer 2018.

The project is 50 percent financed by France with loans of around $2.4 billion (2 billion euros).

It is set to go around 15 percent over budget, according to figures released on Monday.

But ONCF head Rabii Lakhlii said the project had cost "less than 9 million euros per kilometre, compared to a European standard of 20 million euros per kilometre".

The route, made more complex by hilly terrain and strong winds, required the building of several viaducts including one some 3.5 kilometres long.

The ONCF expects the line to attract six million travellers within its first three years.

Lakhlii said tickets would cost about 30 percent more than those for the current rail link.

Moroccan leaders have heralded the project as a key step in modernising the country's infrastructure.

But opponents have criticised it, saying the money could have been better spent in a country where many live in poverty.

They also argue that it unfairly favoured French companies.


Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Iraqis flock to flea market for relics of bygone era

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Natural gas in eastern Mediterranean fuels increasing tensions

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis

Israel blasts Gaza underground tunnel

Abu Dhabi awards France's Total stakes in oil concessions

Erdogan says Afrin city centre under ‘total’ control

Egypt tries to contain Sudan but challenges, suspicions remain

US defence secretary presses Oman on Iran weapons smuggling

Syrian regime retakes two towns from Ghouta rebels

Hamas shutters mobile firm after Gaza attack on PM

Israel punishes family members of West Bank attacker

Syria opposition says UN 'failed to prevent' Assad 'crimes'

UK tries to soothe Egyptian anger over mob attack death

Hundreds of thousands flee in dual Syria assaults

Turkish Cypriots vow to stand firm in gas dispute

Intensifying assaults in Syria spark dual evacuations

Tearful reunions, uncertain fates for Syrians fleeing Ghouta